For director Parker Finn, “Smile” is the first work in the full-length format. Moreover, it is not completely independent. Horror became the development of Finn’s short film “Laura Wasn’t Asleep”, even the plots of the two works are similar. But in the film industry, there are rare cases when the conversion of a short into a full-length gives good results. We tell you in the review below how well it turned out in the horror film “Smile”.
“Smile” / Smile
Directed by Parker Finn
Starring Saucy Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Jesse T. Usher, Rob Morgan, Caitlin Stacey
Release year 2022
The main character of the film is psychotherapist Rose Cotter (Saucey Bacon). One of her patients is student Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stacey), who saw one of her teachers commit suicide. She tells Rose that she can see an entity that makes other people smile unnaturally and threatens the student’s life. Right during the session, Laura also committed suicide. And Rose begins to see smiles on other people’s faces, making her a potential victim of the afterlife.
The original short “Laura didn’t sleep” lasts only 11 minutes. The running time of “Smile” is almost two hours. Often, when there is such a stretching of the original concept, the integrity of the script suffers greatly. After all, it is diluted with moments and entire storylines that feel superfluous against the background of the main conflict.
But “Smile” managed to avoid this problem. In many ways, this is due to the “slow” direction, which neatly leads to each scary moment. Long shots, slow walking of the characters and equally leisurely panning of the camera heighten the suspense. And now they help the screamers to feel scarier.
This is despite the fact that the loudest moments of horror in the film are not very inventive. This is not “Reincarnation” or “Solstice” for you. And the film crew went a little overboard with the number of screamers. Therefore, towards the end, the fear dulls and recedes. However, the general feeling of anxiety and uneasiness of everything that is happening will stay with you until the very credits, which not every horror movie manages to do.
However, “Smile” does not forget that the task of a good horror film is not only to frighten, but also to tell some unusual interesting story through fear, perhaps even with its own moral. And in the debut full-length work of Parker Finn, it works.
“Smile” is not so much a horror about an otherworldly entity that makes everyone smile, as a story about rethinking and accepting one’s psychological injuries. At the root of every tragedy in “Smile” is broken humanity, not the actions of some demon. And the latter here serves as a metaphor for the impossibility of coping with the mental load of tragedies.
Thanks to this, the film acquires additional depth. The characters here do not exist only at the moment of their scripted scenes, every action has a context and prerequisites. Which are folded into a single picture, without sagging anywhere. Rose’s tragedy is genuinely interesting to watch, you feel for her even in the moments when she causes rejection.
And it also works for the overall idea of the movie. After all, on difficult days, we sometimes push away close people who do not wish us anything bad, without good reasons. The most intense moments of “Smile” are connected precisely with such dramatic circumstances. And they are impressive, especially if you yourself have experienced psychological traumas associated with shocking circumstances and people’s deaths.
Against this background, the general impression is spoiled by the moments when the heroes try to find out where the demon came from and what its danger is. The local investigation here is furnished according to all the templates of horror films, even the means of editing and camera angles are identical to the conventional “Sinister”. And in principle, the attempt to make the local demon an objective threat, and not a complete metaphor that supports the overall narrative, harms the atmosphere of the story.
And “Smile” very successfully picked up the key scary element – the unnatural smile of a person brought out in the title. It is easy to implement in different versions, and it makes up for the horror quite a bit.
Pros: a coherent and interesting plot, a competent combination of horror and psychological drama, publicly available ideas within the plot Cons: annoying and uninventive screamers, the storyline with a demon looks primitive and stands out against the background of the main plot Conclusion:
“Smile” is definitely not a revelation in the horror genre. But the film simultaneously entertains, frightens and attracts with its ideas. And as for the debut work, the result was generally excellent