Quick Reviews: 'Smile', 'Crimes Of The Future' | Horror With A Grin, David Cronenberg Under The Skin
Brush your teeth or at the very least, get yourself a breath mint because you definitely wouldn't want to upset the other person with disgusting teeth or terrible smell of your breath when you're dying in a creepy fashion right in front of them, with a grin on your face. It's good to be considerate, you know. Parker Finn's directorial and writing debut Smile will remind you of that as psychological horror with a capital P. Capitalisation is important because we follow a psychiatric therapist Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) who ends up horrifyingly witnessing her new patient Laura (Caitlin Stasey) kill herself during a session, after claiming that she's seeing an unexplainable entity. Following this, Rose herself experiences similar haunting which she eventually suspects to be a curse, something that is hard to swallow for her loved ones.
Finn structures his movie around jump scares—some which are really well done, some below average—but not in a annoying way per se, if you also happen to be wary of them. That is because there are enough thrills to draw from Rose's experiences, Bacon's acting (even when her co-stars don't get much to work with) and moving in and out of those sequences. Where Finn and his team have clearly done their homework notably is in how they use sound; there's a natural build-up in every scene, no relying on over-the-top volume changes and always a descent with scene transitions where you get to the next part of Rose's ''investigation''.
Flow is very important for this film's effectiveness as the premise and story are much weaker and quite unoriginal on their own. Smile often feels like a remake of several successful ''J-horror'' titles in that sense, and even with a two-hour runtime, Finn doesn't exactly find his own voice. The movie works as a calling card for the talent involved so maybe next time the text can be as rich as the visuals and sound mix.
Smileys: Tone, sound editing
CRIMES OF THE FUTURE
Who doesn't love some Crimes Of The Future? In addition to you and me, director-writer David Cronenberg certainly does since this body horror sci-fi film is the second feature he has done with this title. And having no connection to his 1970 film, absolute madness! Returning to his familiar stamping ground in the genre, the story takes place in an unknown Mediterranean-esque town sometime in the future where performance artists Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux) do live surgeries in front of general audiences. This is possible due to advances in human evolution where machinery has taken over some of the organs, challenging the morality and limitations of humanity where it is uncertain what can be considered as crossing the line.
It'd be rather easy to imagine the hook being in the visuals with that kind of setup and Cronenberg's legacy but most of the interesting stuff actually lies on the page. This world's dizzying morality offers a lot of conflicts for Saul and Caprice, as well as bureaucratic investigator Timlin (Kristen Stewart) they get to know. Those characters just get wasted because the acting styles don't share any DNA despite that the characters experience this same exact evolved world.
''Crimes'' also has that inconsistency in how it presents this world; there's appropriately gnarly special makeup that makes you tremble as much as the inhumanity, but otherwise the film looks cheap and unappealing, whether that is because of DoP Douglas Koch's lighting which only works for Mortensen, or Carol Spier's production design that makes Athens look like a backlot or a basement in Atlanta for some reason.
Smileys: Story, makeup
Frowneys: Acting, lighting, production design