Smile is enthralling to the brain and terrified without remorse

Smile is enthralling to the brain and terrified without remorse ...

Polygon is reporting on new horror, sci-fi, and action films heading to theaters and streaming in the 2022 Fantastic Fest. This review was published in conjunction with the premiere of the films from the Fantastic Fest.

Smile, Parker Finn's debut horror film, is carefully calibrated to do different things to different viewers. It's a powerful and effective scare-fest, packed with big, terrifying scares and frightening, jarring tension.

But it does work entirely differently for a savvy horror crowd who can spot the patterns of other popular horror films and anticipate what the story will take from the start. You can see how awful this could be at any moment, right? Its always easy to overlook the effects when the promised horrors arrive.

Finns script takes almost no time to establish who his protagonist is before her world starts to unravel. Working in an emergency psychiatric ward, therapist Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is used to seeing people in distress, and being able to persuade them by appearing in the disguise of people she knows.

Rose appears to be having paranoid delusions when she tries to explain the shape-changing, invisible, malevolent curse-creature. She claims her fiance Trevor (Jessie T. Usher), her mute older sister Holly (Gillian Zinser), and her patrician former therapy Madeline (Robin Weigert, in a role that is only months away from her role as Deadwoods Calamity Jane).

Smile is often a gimmicky, even corny horror film, which is overflowing with jump-scares that are bordering on laughable. Finn uses abrupt, loud sound cues and brutally rapid cuts to get viewers yelping and flinching over mundane things as Rose biting a hamburger, or removing a hangnail, but theyre all powerfully executed when the slow-burning tension resolves with an unexpected, nasty surprise.

Finn does the job of a magician, then makes it so effective that it looks like magic afterwards. With Rose experiencing an inciting event, discovering she has a deadly deadline, drawing in her reluctant but passionate ex to help her, and then conducting research into the phenomenon, with worrying results, Smile uses the familiarity of the story to build anticipation.

Smiles' structure is essentially the same as It Follows, with a threat that is passed from person to person, constantly evolving toward its next victim, while wearing a variety of faces, thereby increasing viewers' fears, all while putting them neatly inside Roses' increasingly disintegrating mindset.

Finn populates the story with vulnerable potential victims in ways that aren't flinching; long-time horror enthusiasts know to be concerned when Rose discovers that Holly has a sweet 7-year-old boy, or that Rose's helpful ex Joel (Kal Penn) is sensitive, open-hearted, and still in love with her, laying up some particularly rich emotional ground.

The central theme in the film adds to the sense of dread as well. From the moment a policeman dismisses his responsibility to investigate a brutal death by writing the victim off as a slanderous person She sounds fucking crazy to me!, it's evident that in its heart, Smile is about the stigma surrounding mental illness and the desire to dismiss or demonize individuals who face such difficulties.

Finn finds refuge in the huge and potentially unbridgeable gap between sufferers and even well-intentioned onlookers. Its also easy to see why others would find it difficult to deal with a woman who is behaving erratically and even dangerously while blaming it all on some incomprehensible fear-demon.

Finn chooses to avoid avoiding this route, making it quite clear throughout that something supernatural is at play. Its a reasonable choice to make in a film that is devoted to anticipating the worst that might happen while genuinely caring for the people who might be affected by it.

Finn seems to understand that people may go to horror movies for different reasons, some more intellectual and some more emotional. Either way, he makes sure that everyone leaves satisfied, and at least shaken.

Smile will be released in theaters on September 30.