In some ways, Parker Finn’s feature debut Smile is a standard horror film, where a central character (hospital therapist Rose, played by Sosie Bacon) falls prey to a supernatural phenomenon and spends most of the film’s time trying to solve the problem. Resolve the increasingly terrifying battle to understand, resist, and survive what’s happening to her.
But Smile plays out an unusual situation at the end, with Finn’s script going in directions designed to steer clear of horror fans who think they can see impending twists and turns. After the film’s world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Polygon sat down with Finn and asked him about the film’s ending: What went into it on a realistic level, how to interpret what we see on screen and why he omits a detail that seems particularly important.
[Ed. note: Ending spoilers ahead for Smile.]
How did the movie Smile end?
Rose first learns of the smiling monster taking over her life when a distraught young woman named Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey) is brought to Rose’s hospital in a near-hysterical state. Laura explains that she is seeing an “entity” that no one else can see, a creature with a terrible smile that sometimes appears to her under the guise of other people she knows, whether alive or dead. Then Laura fell to her knees and screamed, there was clearly something on her shoulder that Rose couldn’t see. When Rose called for help, Laura calmly stood up, smiled, and cut her own throat.
Since that time, Rose has repeatedly seen Laura, in public and in private, smiling at her. She has visions and nightmares that appear to other people she knows, smiling and shouting at her. Rose tells others about the entity, including her fiancé Trevor (Jessie T. Usher) and her sister Holly (Gillian Zinser), but they believe she is delusional due to stress and trauma about her death. Laura. Eventually, Rose and her ex, a cop named Joel (Kyle Gallner) discover a string of similarly grotesque suicides stretching back into the past. The model suggests that the entity haunts someone until they are deeply hurt, then forces them to commit suicide in front of a witness, who is traumatized by death. The entity then starts over with its new victim.
Rose and Joel find one person who broke the chain and survived, by bizarrely killing another in front of a witness and transferring the entity to that witness. That raises a couple of possibilities for the ending: Rose could sacrifice others to survive, just as Naomi Watts’ character Rachel does with a similar curse passed down in the series. Rings; she can’t break the curse and the entity can win, meaning that Rose dies before someone else is hurting; or she can find another way to confront and fight the creature.
To the end, Smile have all three of those endings. Rose brutally stabs a terrified patient at her hospital in front of her screaming boss, Morgan (Kal Penn). But it’s just a dream she has when, unconscious in her car in front of the hospital, she runs away from the hospital and Morgan is horrified.
She then drove to her abandoned, disintegrating childhood home, where her addicted mother died of a drug overdose – something Rose could have prevented if she had called an ambulance when her mother begged her, instead of running away in fear. The initial trauma and pent-up guilt over her mother’s death was what drew the smiling entity to her in the first place. Rose faced the creature first in her mother’s form, then in the form of a giant, scrawny creature. But she forgave herself for failing to help her mother when she was 10 years old, and burned the creature and house at the same time, symbolizing her willingness to let go of the past.
But when she turns back to Joel to apologize for pushing him away while they were dating, and admits that he scared her by overcoming her psychological barrier, he reveals himself to be a real person. body. Rose realizes that she’s still at her childhood home, and has never really fought the entity or left – the whole confrontation she goes through is one of her other hallucinations. creature. Joel arrives, and Rose runs away from him, realizing that the creature meant something to him as she watched her forced suicide and become its next victim.
Inside the house, the tall, scrawny creature tattered its face, revealing something raw and glistening with a series of bared grins on its face. It then forced Rose’s mouth to open and get inside her. When Joel breaks into the house, he sees only Rose, pouring kerosene over her, and turns to smile at him. She sets herself on fire and dies, completing the chain and placing Joel as the creature’s next prey.
What does the end of Smile mean?
Smile suggests that there are ways to deal with trauma, by working through it (as abuse victims often do by abusing others), face it, or collapse under its weight. But Finn says the intention with a series of interlocking contrived endings was to appeal to audiences who might be trying to get ahead of the film.
“Horror audiences are too savvy, so I tried to put myself in their shoes,” he said. “What should I expect? What will I predict? And I tried to expose that and do something that would catch them off guard, and kind of expose them. “
At the same time, the ending to “It’s All Just a Dream” is a notorious sham in the movies, so Finn has to make sure he justifies that route early on, by making it clear that The creature can induce complex hallucinations in its victims – and it specifically uses those visions to direct their behavior and heighten their fears.
“The movie teaches you how to watch it and teaches you that you can’t trust Rose’s perception,” Finn said. “It’s in the movie’s DNA to mess up the viewer a bit. So I wanted to really repay that with the movie ending, which feels like an ending that may not be the end. I relied on that. Early on, I knew I was always interested in following the story to its worst logical conclusion. But I also want a strong emotion. So I want to have my cake and eat it too. Hope [the ending] bring that. “
Finn says he wants viewers to choose the movie separately, questioning what’s real and what’s not. “But I also really love the idea that if something’s going on in your head, it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not,” he says. “For that person, the experience is real.”
What happened to Rose’s father?
The opening sequence of the film revolves around a series of portraits of the Rose family, with her mother, father, and sister Holly all happily together. Then Rose’s father disappeared from the photos. It is unclear whether he died or abandoned his family. Viewers can theorize that whatever happens to him knocks mother Rose down and sends her into a spiral of depression and addiction – but there’s also the possibility that he ran away because he couldn’t cope. deal with what is happening to her and how her mental state is. health decline. Finn says it’s important for him to leave it as an open-ended question.
“I want Smile pretty much a mother and daughter story. There are many ideas about [Rose’s] isolation, in which it was only her and her mother, alone. I love that there was the slightest hint that there was a father, apparently, at some point, but it was intentionally vague. “
Finn says that too many details about what happened to Rose’s father may have shaped viewers’ expectations or reactions in a way he didn’t want to include in the story. “I didn’t want it to have an undue influence,” he said. “It’s just the absence, that’s what’s important to me – that the absence speaks volumes and really amplifies the mother-daughter relationship.”
The connection between Smile and the short that inspired it
Finn previously made a short film set in the same world, Laura didn’t sleepplanned to debut at SXSW in 2020. The festival that year was one of the first events to be closed due to the spread of COVID-19, but Finn can still make a deal with Paramount to do it Smile based on the strength of that short.
Unlike some short films that evolve into features, Laura didn’t sleep don’t tell the same story as Smile. “I like to see them as spiritual brothers and sisters,” says Finn. “Snippets of DNA from the short are strung across the film and tiny Easter eggs here and there. And then there’s Caitlin Stasey, who plays Laura Weaver in SmileLaura is in Laura didn’t sleep also.
“While the two roles, there is a parallel that runs through them, they go in quite different directions. So I think it’s fun. I’m curious for the people who saw this feature first to come back and watch the short. They can see the feature that could almost be a sequel to the short film. “
Audience can’t see now Laura didn’t sleep – it’s not available to stream or buy – but Finn hopes that will change soon.
“Paramount got it,” he said. “It will soon return to the world. I think they’ll try to make sure it’s out there and accessible in a variety of ways. “
Is there a Smile 2?
Finn didn’t immediately have an idea for a sequel, at least not one he wanted to admit. “I wanted the film to really exist for its sake,” he said. “I wanted to tell the story of this character. That’s what’s really important to me. I think there’s a lot of fun to be had in the world of Smile. But for sure as a filmmaker, I never want to re-read anything I’ve done. So if ever there are many SmileI wanted to make sure it was something unexpected and different from what Smile To be.”
Instead, he is currently developing other horror projects. “I’m doing some different things, but I haven’t talked about anything yet,” he said. “But genre and horror have always been my first love. And I wanted to do character-driven movies, do some sort of exploration of the human condition and the scary things of being a human. That’s what I really love. And if I can take that and combine it with some particular genre element, that’s the way I want to live. “