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Femme Filmmakers Festival Review: Creswick (Natalie Erika James)

Creswick is a compelling and haunting horror film, playing on our fears of memory. The film follows a young woman, Sam, who has returned to help her aging father pack up the remains of their family estate in the remote, secluded woods. As Sam goes through reminders of her childhood (strange drawings and doodles), and hears her dad speak of strange disturbances in and around the house, she begins to suspect there is another reason for her father’s move. However, she will discover that the truth is far more disturbing than anything she could have imagined.

This broodingly atmospheric short has a distinctive look and feel, that’s both subtle but steeped with suggestion. With Creswick, less is more. Director, Natalie Erika James, prefers to use restraint, rather than jump scare tactics, which shows her sophistication as a director. The film builds up on the foreboding atmosphere. And after the film finishes, you will feel a chill down your spine, and may be checking over your shoulder just in case someone or something is trying to lurk up on you.

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The film deals with the concept of revisiting childhood, and grappling with changing roles between an aging parent and their off spring. We come to learn that our parents can’t save us from the darkness that haunts the world. The narrative slowly builds, until it pays off with a genuinely skin-tingling reveal, that proves effective and frightening. While many horror films pump up the adrenaline and lean on shock, Creswick is all about dread, resulting in an eerie, beautifully spooky film.

James also edited the short, and co-wrote the screenplay with Christian White. The film’s narrative is well crafted, with a truly disturbing ending which is nightmare inducing.  The captivating sound design, and Nathan Liow’s score, fit Creswick’s somber mood perfectly, making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Dana Miltins delivers a very strong performance as Sam, revealing to us that she is still a frightened child under that tough exterior. Chris Orchard is also solid as Colin, a spirited, but wearied, man, who makes you feel somewhat sorry for his character. Both the main characters are complex, with a complicated history with one and another, reflecting the quality of the writing.

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With its dimly lit, moody lighting, constant moving camerawork (which puts you on edge), and isolated, claustrophobic setting, the film has a tremendous atmosphere. With only two actors to concentrate on, casting is key, and this duo played to the strengths of these well-crafted roles.

It seems that increasingly, most horror films nowadays have forgotten the effectiveness of a steady build up of tension. Creswick was a refreshing throwback to a classic tactic of subtlety. In the span of only ten minutes, Creswick successfully builds up anxiety, gains sympathy for its characters. It does what many feature horror films fail to do successfully, it scares you.

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