Director Parker Finn Talks Dark Endings & Sequel Potential | Pretty Reel

ComingSoon editor Tyler Treese spoke with director Parker Finn about his popular horror film, Smile. Finn discussed the appeal of dark endings and how to properly use gore. Smile is now available for digital purchase and streaming on Paramount+.

“After witnessing a strange and traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter begins to experience frightening events that she cannot explain,” reads the film’s synopsis. “Rose must confront her disturbing past to survive and escape her horrifying new reality. »



Tyler Treese: I read that the movie was originally intended for streaming release, but got such good test screenings that they moved it to theaters. What did that backing from the studio really mean to you when they ramped it up and made it a big release?

Parker Finn: Yeah, even from the beginning, the opportunity to have this movie done with Paramount was absolutely a dream come true. I was very excited that they supported the film, and as a rookie filmmaker, they provided me with the resources to make it happen. When that decision was made to take the film to a wide theatrical release, it felt like a real “pinch me” moment. It was beyond exciting, and I have to take my hat off to Paramount for supporting it in such a big way and putting together an amazing marketing campaign. I want to make films designed to be seen big and loud and in a shared experience. It was the intention to do Smile. [I’m] so glad people got to see it that way.

The marketing was really inventive. I loved that the NBA playoff people in the crowd were smiling so creepily. How cool was it to see all the different ideas they came up with?

It was really fun. We had a lot of meetings and what I love about Paramount marketing is how well they know how to think outside the box. They wanted to do something that would feel unique. They wanted to do something that was truly guerrilla in nature, and the idea of ​​sending smilers to sporting events arose. They always said, “We don’t want to put our thumbs on the scales. We don’t want it to feel forced. We just want to see if we can get people to notice it organically. I remember when this started to take off and started getting reposted everywhere and shared so widely…it was so cool. People need to connect the dots and figure it out. And so many people, I think, had no idea the movie suddenly existed because they were watching a baseball game. It was a very fun thing to be part of.

When you watch a movie these days, there’s almost always a happy and very safe ending. You’re not going that route. It’s not a happy ending. What was behind the decision not to end the curse and be a bit depressed there? I’m sure it shocked a lot of viewers.

I’m not a big fan of ends that are neatly tied with a bow. I think sometimes it can be too easy or maybe not ring as true as the rest of the movie. From the start, I knew I was interested in following this story to its worst logical conclusion. But I also wanted to make sure there was an emotional catharsis that we had before that, you know? I guess I kind of wanted to have my cake and eat it too. But to see if we could give Rose that conclusion to the journey we’ve been on with her – this truly personal journey – would hopefully be satisfying. But at the same time, I think sometimes there’s just evil in the universe, and you can’t always stop an unavoidable force of nature. To me, I felt like there was something really, really wrong with doing that. I don’t know, it’s always been part of the story.

I like this. And the movie was such a hit and built a smart world. You could do a sequel that takes place at the end of the movie, but you also talk about, “Oh, there’s these other channels that happen in different countries.” There are so many great spots where you could get into spin-offs. Was that in mind when you created this world, or is it just a happy accident now that it’s so successful that there are so many launch points?

Never in a million years would I have thought people were going to ask me for another one of those movies, which is amazing! I think there are a lot of exciting things that could be done in the world of Smile. There are a lot of corners I deliberately left unexplored and things I wish I could have done in the first one, but there just wasn’t room to do it. It would be really exciting. What I think is really important about Smile is the story of the character at the center of it and how the character’s emotionality and themes are so connected to what’s going on. And it’s really important, I think, that if there was ever a consideration for more smiling, that would be part of what he does and it would seem… maybe unexpected compared to what we’ve been through in the first movie. Another movie might do something that looks totally different but is uniquely Smile at the same time.

One thing I really liked about the movie was the uncertainty throughout. With mental imagery, you’re able to lay the work for those paths that are teased, but it doesn’t go down. So, how much fun was it to meet viewers’ expectations and be able to take them on such a wild ride?

I really enjoy creating things that have a real element of audience participation. For me it’s really funny if I can get people to cringe or squirm in their seat or giggle because they’re really uncomfortable or so at times like jumping out of their seat in a surprising way. I love leading an audience down a path and then pulling the rug out from under them – it’s one of my favorite activities. But it also felt like it tied into the motives of the movie: what happens to Rose and what the supernatural elements do to her. The film does the same to the audience and creates the same experience for the audience that the character feels. I really like this element of the film.

Were you able to go to some theaters and watch regular moviegoers experience it and go around?

Yeah, I went to a few opening weekend screenings, which were really fun because they were sold out, and I just went anonymously and watched with the audience. The only reason to do all of this is for the audience and hearing them connect and embrace the film as it seems when you’re in the theater with them is amazing. Making a movie takes so much work and that’s what makes it worth it.

There are some really inventive and funny death scenes in this film. How do you decide how much gore is too much?

I like gore well used, when used for precision effect. Knowing when to hold back and when to jump into something, I think is an important line to follow. There are a lot of different cinematic elements that come together around gore or violence that I hope enhance the experience of it, like how we use the camera, the performance, the sound design and the score . bring everything [that] things together while also combining practical effects with visual effects, you can create this really unsettling experience and I was really, really happy that we were able to pull off some of that.

Director Parker Finn Talks Dark Endings & Sequel Potential | Pretty Reel