Smile (2009)

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Smile (2009)
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Smile
Horror
CineTel Films, Image Entertainment
August 28th, 2009
Release length: 1:30:00
Website
Smile is an Italian Horror flick that is based around a story lined that graced many Horror or Thriller based programs. Viewers may find the plot similar to stories told on The Twilight Zone and Are You Afraid of the Dark, even in the Goosebumps book Say Cheese and Die. But, this didn’t stop writer and director Francesco Gasperoni from shelling it out once more. Does this make a nice modern adaptation of the tried-and-true plot device, or is it the most generic yet?

A group of students go on a holiday trip to the haunted mountains of Morocco. On the way their car comes into contact with another, driven by a band of gypsy’s, one begging Clarissa (Harriet MacMasters-Green) to help her baby in order to steal her camera. Clarissa, by the way, is studying to be a photography major, which she points out during a brief spoken word dialogue that interrupts the film to introduce the characters, a sign typical of poor writing. With their truck having a flat they head into the nearest town where she walks into a curio shop and meets Tollinger (Armand Assante), the man taking photos of dead people for the news and police in the start of the film. He gives her his old camera from the sixties and encourages her to take photos of her friends.

After spending the night and soaking up some of the town’s culture, Geneva (Tara Haggiag) decides to go home since they plan to camp out in the woods, and not stay in a spa. With her gone, the group continue on with their hike, only to get lost. They eventually come upon a Hunter (Rabie Kati) who agrees to help them in the morning, but only to find the camera and warn of its power. Left alone, the group try to find their way out, and Tommy (Antonio Cupo) snaps a photo of himself and Angelica (Manuela Zanier). This is when all hell breaks loose from the demon in the camera.

Smile

A storm hits and the group happen upon an old cabin they take refuge in. As the bodies start to pile up, accusations are thrown around. Tommy believes Clarissa knows something she’s not saying (which she somehow does by the flashback revealing a gash in the back of the girl’s head in the shop she never saw) and claiming she’s using it as a weapon against them all. After some madness, the survivors make a break for the car once more since the rain has stopped, and for some reason it’s now day. Once there, the truth about Trollinger is unveiled through a Google search and a flashback about how he and the girl in the curio shop are tied into this, and the demonic camera.

Most of the cast’s acting is simply awful. This is thanks to poor execution, facial expressions to express he urgency or the proper emotion for the event you’re witnessing, as well as lines that sound re-recorded in a studio during post-production. The only two actors that were at all believable, or even remotely likeable, were Rabie Kati and Armand Assante. Armand has top billing the film, but has the least screen time next to Rabie, another underused character outside of revealing the camera kills who it photographs. Nearly all the characters are incredibly superficial, shallow, and often empty. If it weren’t for the opening narrative Clarissa gives, you wouldn’t know anything about them thanks to the lack of development used, as well as little on-screen chemistry between any of them.

The dead bodies did look pretty good for what appears to be a low budget film. However, that aspect looks incredibly forced. The movie itself seems as though it were shot with digital (not high definition) cameras, but in post-production some strong filters were chosen that simply made day scenes look horrible, and an excessive use of film grain. Some of the effects on the dead, like protruding antlers and the burnt remnants of a corpse, seem to profit from the effect. The objects were floating in the air or thrown great disances with precision accuracy, however, just looked like a waste. The demon had been shown, so why bother making things float as if by a ghost? It’s in no way intimidating, and even conflicts with that film grain that just had to be as rich as it is.

Smile

Sadly, the demon angle also seems to be a throw away. The way the film is built up thanks to the Hunter’s involvement, you immediately think it has something to do with the local folklore, or even some kind of pagan mythology. Instead, it’s a generic explanation that conveys absolutely no emotion, even when they reveal the girl from the curio shop, which is just edited poorly and leaves you confused until they have to flat out explain it to you to make sense of it.

In the end, Smile had plenty of opportunity to be something more than just a standard remake of an overused plot, but didn’t even bother to go that route. With the exception of two saved by their actors, every single character is immediately forgettable thanks to the writing, only getting a summary of background during a narration towards the start of the film that simply isn’t enough to make you even care for this paper-thin victims and survivors. Instead it’s the most underused characters are the ones with the most backstory. Had a better cast, or even just a stronger script been involved, this could have been an enjoyable experience. But, it’s pretty clear Francesco Gasperoni is proud of the final product given his credit stays on the screen at the end about fifteen seconds. As it is, if you can check it out on Netflix, it’s worth it if you can’t find anything else to throw on and approach it knowing it’s going to be a rough ride.

Overall Score: 3.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by personal funds.