Smile tickles the brain and terrifies without remorse

The 2022 Fantastic Fest is on the ground, reporting on new horror, sci-fi and action films making their way to theaters and streaming. This review was published in conjunction with the film’s Fantastic Fest premiere.

Parker Finn’s first horror film smile Carefully calibrated to do different things for different audiences. For someone who isn’t well-versed with horrors, it’s an efficient and effective scare-fest, full of big, shocking scares and awkward, grinding tension.

But it works completely differently for a spooky horror crowd that might recognize the ways Finn iterates on other popular horror movies, and can predict from the outset where the story is bound to go. smile often winks at the audience, offering silence You know what comes next, don’t you? You can see how bad it can be, right? It’s easy to see at any given moment what Finn is doing with his characters, and where he’s targeting the story — and it appears to be completely intentional. Still, it’s never easy to overestimate the impact when the promised horrors come.

Working from the last short film, 2020 Laura hasn’t slept, it takes almost no time for Finn’s script to establish who his hero is before his world begins to fall apart. Working in the hospital’s emergency psychiatric ward, therapist Rose Couture (Sosie Bacon) is used to seeing and talking to people in distress. He then encounters a terribly shaken patient who claims he is haunted by some sort of malicious entity that no one else can see, a creepy smiling creature who appears under the guise of those who know him. It hurts him.

A woman smiling at a baby shower while young children stand smiling

Image: Paramount Pictures

The story sounds like a crazy delusion—and when Rose tries to talk to other people about the shape-shifting, invisible, malevolent curse-creature, she feels like she’s having a crazy delusions, too. “Not me MadShe boasts of her soft fiancé Trevor (Jesse T. Usher), her brittle older sister Holly (Gillian Zinser), and her patrician former physician Madeline (Robin Weigert, light-years away from her turn in the role). deadwoodThe Calamity of Jane). But Rose finds no way to be reassured when she says it, especially to a world that is cynical and inconsistent with the mentally ill.

smile Often a gimmicky, even corny horror film, filled with so many jump-scares that the sheer heap-borders on laughter. Finn uses sudden, loud cues and brutally sharp cuts to make the audience scream and giggle at things like Rose biting into a hamburger, or tearing off a hangnail. But no matter how many legitimate scares, they are startling and reassuring. The editing and music are meticulously tuned for maximum effect whenever slow-burn tension is resolved with sudden, ugly surprises. who makes all smile An efficient ride, if an unusually unreliable one.

But Finn uses the equivalent of a magician to show the audience how to perform the trick, then perform it so effectively that it still looks like magic. their script pattern smile Later ringWhen Rose is faced with a provocative event, she realizes she’s on a deadly deadline, attracting her reluctant but soulful ex to help her, then researching the incident, with worrisome consequences. with. But where are the other movies after this? ringThe beats just felt derivative (including its many clumsy sequences), smile Uses the familiarity of the story to establish anticipation. When Rose sees a possible solution to her problem, smile Invites viewers to consider the logical endpoint of her quest, and wonder whether she would make the same selfish choice in which the character of Naomi Watts was made. ring – And if so, who will bear the brunt of it?

Sosie Bacon Cuts Her Finger As Rose In Smile Because She's Hurting Her

Sosie Bacon as Rose smile
Walter Thomson, MPA Approved.

Similarly, smileThe setup of roughly mimics a to follow, with a threat from person to person, wearing a variety of faces, moves on to his next victim, turning everyone in the protagonist’s life into a potential threat. But then, instead of feeling like a copycat, smile Uses familiarity to heighten a sense of danger, until viewers can trust anyone they see on screen to be human – which places them neatly inside Rose’s increasingly shattering mindset .

human element smile It’s calibrated as carefully as jump scares, in ways designed to keep viewers concerned when they don’t budge. Finn populates the story with vulnerable potential victims: longtime horror fans know to be concerned when it turns out that Rose has a cute cat, or that Holly has an adorable 7-year-old boy, or that Rose’s. Assistant ex Joel (Kyle Gallner) is sensitive, open-hearted, and still loves him. (Kal Penn also comes across as Rose’s supervisor, in a role that seems specifically designed to provide a target for mayhem.) And the way Rose is repressing childhood trauma. , which she partly shares with Holly and is partly the cause of so much tension between them, establishes some particularly rich emotional ground. smile The setting for disaster is almost painfully efficient: it’s a bare-bones story, with each new character or element designed to reinforce a sense of dread about who is likely to die, and how badly. From.

The central theme of the film also adds to the sense of dread. From the moment a policeman defies his responsibility to investigate a strange death by writing to the victim with a cavalier “That makes me look crazy!”, it’s clear, from the heart, smile It is about the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the urge to dismiss or demonize those navigating it.

Rose walks away from the burning building and has a smile in her eyes

Image: Paramount Pictures

Finn finds fertile ground in the vast and possibly unrestricted gap between victims and even well-intentioned spectators. Viewers are likely to sympathize with Rose, who is living with a terror she doesn’t know how to fight. But it’s also easy to see why other people would find it uncomfortable, trying to deal with a woman who is behaving unfairly and even dangerously, while it’s all in some kind of inexplicable. Fear – blames the demon.

A darker version of the film may delve even further into ambiguity about Rose’s condition, lingering on the question of whether she is really just a psychotic episode brought on by stress, overwork, and legitimate trauma. . Finn chooses to avoid that path, making it clear that something supernatural is at work. It is a reasonable choice to make a film that is dedicated to depositing fear on top of fear, keeping the audience anticipating the worst, while authentically caring for those who might suffer if it happens. still steals smile of potential subtlety.

But there’s nothing wrong with a horror movie that’s designed more to scare viewers than to play games with them. As a writer-director, Finn feels that people can go to horror movies for different reasons, some more intellectual and some more sentimental. Either way, he does an impressive job of making sure they all come in satisfied, and move at least a little.

smile Opens in cinemas on 30 September.

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