Review: The Smiling Man (2016)
Many filmmakers in the horror genre today are taking their cue from the classics of old, understanding that an ominous tone, creepy moments of silence, and a few strategically-placed scenes of gruesome horror work far more effectively than all-out gore and an endless battery of jump scares. A.J. Briones' recent horror short, The Smiling Man, will peak your interest with its exposition of an adorable child discovering a series of balloons appearing magically in her house. But the film's fantastical tone soon surrenders to several pulse-pounding minutes of nerve-jangling suspense and a finale that will chill audiences to the bone.
Clocking in at just six minutes, The Smiling Man is a masterful exercise in suspense and a symbolic exploration of the terrors and fears of childhood. In the film's opening scene, a young girl leaves behind her room of Disney cartoons and stuffed animals and enters into a nightmarish world of predatory gift-giving and murder. She soon discovers an otherworldy presence in her house, a creature that lures her into a blood-soaked climax. Perhaps even more horrifically, the creature's final gesture to the child implies that their grim exchange is best kept secret, yet another symbolic moment in the film. While movies like Little Children and The Woodsman have explored child predators in human form, A.J. Briones' The Smiling Man uses a supernatural urban legend (or "creepypasta") to highlight the dangers of the adult world and the ease with which children can be confronted with evil.
Turn out all the lights and watch The Smiling Man right here, and congratulations to A.J Briones and his team for crafting an outstanding and award-winning film.