If you love horror films I can absolutely recommend SMILE if you haven’t already seen it. Director and screenplay writer, Parker Finn, and Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick) plays the therapist protagonist, Rose Cotter, alongside actors Jessie T. Usher who is the superficial fiancé, Trevor, Kyle Gallner the sympathetic ex, Joel, Kal Penn, the concerned friend and superior work colleague, Dr Morgan Desai, and Gillian Zinser as the self-centred sister Holly – among other therein actors.
For those readers who wish to read on, I continue with a more in-depth review, NO SPOILERS!, below –
There is a tortoiseshell (Calico) cat too, as Moustache (uncredited). Does the cat ‘die’? I always wonder about their fate when an animal makes an appearance. Usually, in horror, they do. I don’t know why it worries me because, obviously it’s make-believe, but worry I do. I don’t appreciate animals being deployed for cheap thrills – just kill another human character I say. (Did you know there’s even a website called Does The Dog Die, that lets you know before seeing the film?) O, and if you’d like the answer to that particular question: Does the cat ‘die’?, I’ll answer that at the very bottom of this post in case you’d rather not know 😉
Jack Sochet‘s performance as the wretched mentally ill patient, Carl Renken, incited pity for the character. His character was a stark contrast to the cold and self-absorbed sister Holly who I couldn’t help but dislike – although Holly did have her reasons. Also of merit, was Kyle Gallner’s acting as Rose’s ex – his love for her was tangible in his down-to-earth way. Parker Finn was insightful with character development, and sensitive to the human condition. And he put all that together with a believable demon running the show. According to his IMDB page this appears to be his first full length film.
I don’t think Sosie Bacon’s performance as the traumatised therapist could have been bettered.
Horror, one of my favourite genres – experienced as movie audience, story reader and writer of – I would surmise must be an especially difficult thing to realise in film. That’s why there’s so many clunkers. There’s too little time to execute the complete story, and too many variables to consider (the right tone to the overall film, casting, characters, locations, situations, pacing or rhythm, lighting, sound, animation, camera angles, post production, makeup and wardrobe, set design, financial means, time constrictions, character and overall story arcs etc). It literally takes hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people to create a movie. Just think about that… isn’t that amazing? All of those skilled and talented people in their areas of expertise contributing to that one film – and hardly anyone of them recognised by us, the audience, outside of the usual directors, producers, actors and perhaps writers.
Too many movies go the cliché route with the cheap usual scares (done to the death) that no longer frighten but bore. SMILE isn’t such a film, although John and I spotted a scene we’d afore watched in TERRIFIED, a most excellent Argentinian film. And we both didn’t appreciate the best bits – as is usual! – being given away too early and for free in the film trailer (please film makers take note).
A note on Spanish dialogued films: Whether made in Spain or Latin America, there’s some really good horror film making in the original Spanish. And, of course, the unique and extremely talented, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy 1 + 2, Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone etc.! ) is of Mexican origin. I don’t understand Spanish so need the English subtitles, but don’t find that detracts from the story. Please don’t let that prevent you (non-Spanish speakers) from watching and enjoying them. (Most of Guillermo del Toro’s films are in English but his Mexican culture and sensibilities are certainly reflected).
To round-up, SMILE has base notes of a worthwhile horror, with good pacing, realistic characters and a terrifying demon. Top notes of real jump scares. With flavours of THE RING and THE GRUDGE. Best NOT to watch the film trailer before seeing it.
Question: Does the cat ‘die’?
Spoiler Answer: Yes. It’s not explicit, though; emotionally rather shocking and terribly sad. I really felt for the poor therapist whose cat it was. This is the boy’s party scene. The ‘killing’ is done behind the scenes (off-camera).
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