Parker Finn makes his feature directorial debut with Smile, a terrifying new horror film that is perfect for the fall season but it will make your skin crawl. Despite it being his first time, the reviews are in and even the greats such as Stephen King are praising his work.
Parker jumped on the horror scene with two brilliant short films: The Hidebehind, which is shot in complete daylight and really showcases the director’s attention to detail and makes the best use of his setting, and Laura Hasn’t Slept, which won the Special Jury Recognition Prize from SXSW’s Midnight short category. The latter film serves as the jumping-off point for Smile.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
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The young director spoke with Screen Rant about how the idea he had to turn his short film Laura Hasn’t Slept into Smile panned out. Parker also dives into why practical effects were so important to Smile, his horror filmmaking philosophy, and what horror franchise he’d want to helm in the future.
Director Parker Finn On Smile
Screen Rant: Parker, amazing job, man. Congratulations on this film. I absolutely loved it. Where did the idea for Smile come from, and was it always in your plans to expand your short, Laura Hasn't Slept?
Parker Finn: Well, no. I made Laura Hasn't Slept just to kind of stand-alone. I think all good shorts should stand alone and exist in their own right. But while I was in post on that, there was something about it that kept lingering with me and this idea for this larger story started to emerge, and then this totally separate character story was born out of it. And yeah, just it rattled around in there and then just came pouring out of me.
Sosie knocks it out of the park. What did she bring to the role of Rose that wasn't necessarily on the page?
Parker Finn: Sosie is so incredible at what she's able to do. She brings this vulnerability and really draws you in as this character that you end up caring for so much, but then has to go to these really, really just elevated, insane kind of heightened places. All that anxiety and fear and melodrama that's going on, and she's able to do both, and it's an absolute magic trick I think.
You and I are both fans of practical effects, especially in the genre of horror. Can you talk to me about how practical effects add to horror?
Parker Finn: Yeah. I mean, I grew up on practical effects. I love them. It's one of the reasons I wanted to make horror films in the first place. I think that as far as making a film in production, when it's really there, it's in front of the camera, it just has this gravity to it and the actors can interact with it. It really changes things on set. And then for audiences, I think we can sniff out bad CGI, but when it's real, it kind of breaks your brain a little bit. You're like, "What am I looking at and how is it possible that this exists on screen?" I love that. For me, that's movie magic.
I'm a big fan of your cinematic language, from your cinematography to your camera shots. Amazing job across the board. Are there any influences you took from anything else to help inform this film?
Parker Finn: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think we're all sort of made up of all our influences, but some films that were on my brain while I was making this, in a big way, was certainly Rosemary's Baby and how that sort of positions us with that character and the camera movement and blocking in that. Todd Haynes' Safe is a movie that I was constantly thinking about during this, the way that it places you in the character's anxiety and just keeps ratcheting that up as she goes down that rabbit hole, that was part of it. And then Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure, just the sort of nightmarish atmosphere of that film throughout that investigation was something that was definitely on my mind while I was making this.
That's incredible, man. What was the most difficult part about expanding kind of the short, or expanding on the short into it making it a feature? And what was the most fun part?
Parker Finn: Well, certainly the most fun part was the opportunity. I feel so lucky to have gotten to make this movie in the way that we got to make it, but it's the story, really it was all about this character journey that I wanted to write and turn into a film. It was about taking what I really loved about the short, all those pieces of DNA, and threading them through into this new story and making sure that it was working.
We go through Rose's journey, and the more and more we dive deeper into her story, the more people kind of fall out of her life. Can you talk a little bit about the theme of isolation? Because I know you wrote this during the pandemic.
Parker Finn: Yeah. I think isolation is something that I think we've all experienced, especially just coming out of a pandemic. But it's that universal fear of not being believed that was something that was really on my mind, as well as the fear of the unknown.
And this was all stuff that kind of became potent alchemy that led the story.
I know that you're a huge horror fan. Are there any horror characters or franchises that you'd like to take a stab at? No pun intended.
Parker Finn: Yeah, definitely. It's interest... We'll see. Maybe, maybe. I want to make things that feel very original, or at least surprising and new.
I'm a big fan of your other short, The Hidebehind. Are there any plans to expand that into a feature, possibly?
Parker Finn: Not at the moment. Again, that was something I just made that I thought could exist great in its own right, and it was just a fun little thing that people seemed to really grab onto, yeah.
After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can't explain. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.
Check out our other interview with Smile star Sosie Bacon as well.