Smile soothes the brain and terrorizes without remorse

Smile soothes the brain and terrorizes without remorse ...

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

Smile, Parker Finn's first horror film, is carefully crafted to suit different audiences. It's a safe and effective scare-fest, full of huge, frightening scares and terrifying, frantic tension.

But for a savvy horror crowd, Finn is able to see where the story may go from the start, and thus predict from the start what it might go in the long run. You can see how awful this could be, right? Its easy to see at any moment what Finn is doing with his characters, and where he is aiming the story, and that seems to be entirely deliberate.

Finns script takes almost no time to establish who his protagonist is before her world starts to unravel. She first meets a badly shaken patient who claims she is haunted by some bizarre creature who no one else can see. She then meets a psychopath who claims to be the one she knows.

Rose claims to be having paranoid delusions when she tries to explain the shape-changing, invisible, malevolent curse-creature. She says she's not crazy, but she says she's just happy to be with her blandly lovely fiance Trevor (Jessie T. Usher), her feisty older sister Madeline (Robin Weigert), in a role that's only just years away from her role as Deadwoods Calamity Jane.

Smile is often a gimmicky, even corny, horror film that's filled with so many jump-scares that the whole thing is a blurb. Finn uses abrupt, loud sound cues and brutally quick cuts to get viewers yelping and flinching over mundane things like Rose biting a hamburger, or tearing off a hangnail. All of which makes it a rewarding experience, if unusually slow.

Finn does the job of a magician, explaining how the trick is done, then proving that it is still magic anyway. Rose experiences an enticing circumstance, discovers she has a deadly deadline, draws in her reluctant but determined ex to assist her, and then undertakes research into the phenomenon, with worrying results. But where other films that followed The Rings beats feel derivative, Smile uses the familiarity of the story to create anticipation.

Smile's approach to It Follows is similar to that of It Follows, with a threat passing from person to person implacably toward its next victim, while wearing a variety of outfits, increasing everyone in the protagonists' lives as a potential threat. Yet again, Smile uses familiarity to heighten the sense of danger, until viewers cannot trust anyone they see on screen to be human, thus encapsulating Roses' increasingly disintegrating mindset.

Finn populates the story with vulnerable potential victims, or that Rose's helpful ex Joel (Kyle Gallner) is sensitive, open-hearted, and still in love with her. (Kal Penn also pops up as Roses supervisor, in a role that seems particularly designed to provide a target for mighthem, and provides some particularly rich emotional ground.)

The film's central theme adds to the dreadful feeling as well. From the moment a police officer dismisses his responsibility to investigate a gruesome death by writing the victim off with a cavalier She sounds fucking crazy to me!, it's evident that Smile is at heart about the stigma surrounding mental illness and the desire to dismiss or demonize people who are dealing with it.

Finn discovers a fertile space between sufferers and even well-intentioned onlookers. It's easy to see why others would find it difficult to deal with a woman who's behaving erratically and even dangerously while blaming it all on some uncomprehensible fear-demon.

Finn chooses to avoid going down that path, making it fairly clear throughout that something supernatural is at play in a film that is devoted to instilling fear in the viewer while genuinely caring for those who might be affected by the situation.

Finn seems to understand that people may go to horror films for various reasons, some of which are more rational and some more physical. Either way, he makes sure theyll all leave satisfied, or at least shaken.

Smile will be released in cinemas on September 30.