Director A.J. Briones’ short film “The Smiling Man” is a beautifully terrifying and demented short horror film that’s centered on building terror and then delivering one of the most warped final scenes I’ve ever seen in a horror film. The whole basis around the premise of “The Smiling Man” is not so much the inevitability of doom, but how we perceive evil and how evil can perceive good.
Briones’ short is brilliantly directed, filled with fantastic editing and garners one of the most spine tingling monsters put to film, and one that I think warrants a feature all his own. While a little girl watches cartoons, she is distracted by the presence of something unusual in her house. Lured away from the comfort of her bedroom, she begins discovering various balloons weighed down by bags filled with loose parts of dolls. As she ventures deeper and deeper in to her home, she’s realizes too late that she’s becoming instrumental in the activity of a terrifying monster that’s infiltrated her home.
I won’t ruin “The Smiling Man” too much, but there’s definitely reason why it’s garnered so many awards and high praise. Director Briones mounts the tension with pitch perfect precision and delivers a bang of a finale where we watch a monster with ambiguous intent anxiously trying to relinquish its terrifying visage by taking on the guise of a more innocent being that inadvertently makes it scarier than ever. The performance by Strange Dave, matched with the top notch effects make The Smiling Man an excellent being of horror, and is the topping on the excellent horror treat that is “The Smiling Man.”