“Creswick” (2016): Melancholy Tenor Inhabits Chilling Australian Supernatural Short


Natalie Erika James’s latest short film Creswick is a meditative, moody story of a haunted family. The supernatural goings-on here are not of the scream-in-your-face variety; they are of the chilling, shudder-inducing kind that stay with viewers long after the final frame.

Australian production Creswick follows Sam (Dana Miltins), who has returned to her childhood home to help her father Colin (Chris Orchard) pack up the family belongings. He has decided to sell the house. When Sam asks him why, he replies that she may have been on to something when she was young and disliked spending time there. He has noticed mysterious things happening and even the dog is spooked; “It’s like someone else is living here,” he says.

Creswick both
Sam (Dana Miltins; left) finds that things seem amiss when she visits her father Colin (Chris Orchard) at her childhood home in Creswick.

Sam knows what he is talking about. Earlier, she found a sketchbook from her childhood with a mysterious, dark figure looming in the tree-lined distance in one drawing. This presence may still be wandering around the home.

With Creswick, Natalie Erika James examines similar themes to the ones in her debut short, Tritch (reviewed here). Both short films balance drama and elements of the supernatural, with special attention paid to the main female characters confronting the things that haunt them. Here, James’s growing talent and confidence as a filmmaker is on display. She keeps her shots steady and unflinching, occasionally using slow pans for startling or mysterious reveals, working marvelously in tandem with cinematographer Charlie Sarroff. James also edited the short, and cowrote the screenplay with Christian White.   The captivating sound design and Nathan Liow’s score fit Creswick’s somber mood perfectly. Dana Miltins is splendid as Sam, showing both the strength and fear that inhabit her character. Chris Orchard is also solid as Colin, a spirited but wearied man.

Dana Miltins gives a gripping performance as Sam, who must confront childhood fears when she returns home.

Creswick has its world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August. For more information about that screening and future ones, visit https://www.facebook.com/creswickfilm/ – and watch for forthcoming projects from Natalie Erika James, as I predict a bright future for her in the world of cinema.

Creswick: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Creswick poster

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.