So I capped off my Halloween watch season with two final movies — last year’s disappointing Japanese remake of “Cube” and this year’s truly unnerving “Smile.”
The new “Cube” wasn’t terrible — it was better than the glut of lackluster low-budget horror films that we fans endlessly contend with. But it’s still a watered-down, somewhat milquetoast facsimile of the devilish 1997 Canadian original. The makers of the new film seem to have consciously traded booby-trap horror for some belabored personal drama. (If you see this movie, you might note that the plot-driving booby traps in the titular futuristic prison get surprisingly little screen time.)
This decision doesn’t pay off too well … the melodrama slows the film down without making the characters any more engaging. And the overused flashbacks disrupt the claustrophobic setting that is supposed to be essential here. Maybe this script was written to better anticipate the expectations of Japanese audiences? Or maybe the movie simply had a limited special effects budget — the deadly traps that we do get to see in action are depicted by CGI that is a little unconvincing.
“Smile,” on the other hand, was scary as hell. Yes, it bears a striking resemblance to another well known horror film (which I won’t name, as that might be a general spoiler). And some of the twists and jump scares are easy to predict (or were spoiled by the trailer).
But … goddam. This movie worked. I can’t knock a horror film that had me genuinely scared. The supernatural plot device is undeniably creepy, and writer-director Parker Finn wisely employs methodical pacing to gradually ratchet up the tension. Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin Bacon!) was also convincing as the protagonist, and created a sympathetic character to root for.
“Smile” is strong stuff. I’d definitely recommend it.
To all of the various good people that I am fortunate to know, Happy New Year. Our past year may have been difficult, and our days ahead may be more so.
But you are here, with me now, and we are friends. Those are three things that matter — three things without which this life would be a far lesser one.
We begin together.
Greeting card circa 1909. Source: Missouri History Museum.
If you happen to enjoy my mad scribblings, all of my poetry and commentary for 2021 can be found right here.
Have a safe and happy New year!
Can I social distance or what?
Yeah, I do realize that Wham!’s “Last Christmas” is the least of 2021’s existential threats, but it’s an existential threat nonetheless. Take your victories where you can.
Hot damn, my best friend gave me the coolest presents for a writer! What you see are “Poe-ka Dots” socks, sculpted raven bookends from the New York Public Library and the piece de resistance …
… a lapel pin fashioned after the origami unicorn from “Blade Runner” (1982). I didn’t even know such a thing existed, so I wouldn’t have even known to ask for it. I can’t believe she found it!
“‘MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN’ IS OUR MOTTO.”
I hope that my friends near and far have lovely Christmas.
Photo credit: By aussiegall from sydney, Australia – Merry Christmas, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24660654