Strong scares propel a new face of horror AIPT

The opening film of this year’s Fantastic Fest was the world premiere of Smile. Dr. Rose Cotter (Bacon lookalike, 13 reasons why) witnesses a bizarre incident involving a patient. She soon begins to experience inexplicable incidents that begin to invade her life. She thinks she understands what’s going on, but what she doesn’t understand is why so many people are smiling.

When your horror movie is named after a physical feature, chances are there will be plenty of visual scares. Smile there’s no shortage of that, but it’s the sound design that carries the film. From eerie music that feels almost out of place to sudden, loud thumps and screams that go beyond what’s normally found in the genre, there’s a bit of everything.

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This helps to contribute to a gloomy atmosphere that the plot sometimes struggles to restore. There are themes about the past and how people are perceived that the film tends to barely touch on before doing a thorough exploration. This happens throughout the movie. This erratic storytelling isn’t a dealbreaker, but it does Smile feeling like a run-of-the-mill horror movie at times.

Even when his main issues are tackled head-on, director Parker Finn tends to lose track. This is most evident in the finale which gets a little too twisted and clever for its own good. Surprisingly, this can be a product of strong writing. Smile is great at delivering twists; it just becomes a bit too dependent on them in the final moments.

Sound can do most of the heavy lifting in Smile, but that camera work is awesome too. Many shots are shot at odd angles or a little sideways. There are even scenes that are literally upside down. These shots mimic the trauma Rose is going through and provide more immersion. Every time a movie delivers an amazing trailer, audiences immediately start wondering if it can actually deliver. This was certainly the case with Smile which just might end with the scariest teaser of the year. By relying on sound and adding occasional jump scares, the film lives up to expectations.

Fantastic party will take place from September 22 to 29

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