Smile's Parker Finn Details The Challenge Of Filming That Horrific Birthday Party Scene

smile's parker finn details the challenge of filming that horrific birthday party scene
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Parker Finn’s “Smile” was one of the most successful horror films of 2022. Releasing at the end of September, it came out at the height of the Fall season when avid moviegoers expect to see many horror movies premiering. Despite the flood of horror movies like “Terrifier 2,” the indie horror that took the world by storm, “Barbarian,” the film that became an instant cult classic, and the highly anticipated “Halloween Ends,” “Smile” still managed to stand out as something unique and deliciously scary.

Featuring an unseen entity that slowly works itself into the mind of its victims, “Smile” showcased the reality of being haunted or cursed in a way that many films don’t commit to. While the victim may not be believed at first, the rest of the cast eventually comes around to help them, but in “Smile,” Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) doesn’t really get the support she needs. After trying to tell her sister, therapist, and fiancé about the things she’s been seeing and experiencing, they never come to believe her. From an outside perspective, they’re watching a therapist succumb to a delusion she’s painted for herself.

While there were quite a few horrifying scenes in “Smile,” there was one in particular that gave director Parker Finn the most challenges.

The birthday scene was especially hard because of the children on set

smile's parker finn details the challenge of filming that horrific birthday party scene
Paramount Pictures

During an interview with CinemaBlend, writer and director Parker Finn talked about how difficult it was to deliver a diversity of disturbing and scary moments throughout “Smile.” “All the scares in the film were definitely, you know, bespoke and logistical challenges for every single one of them. I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just scaring people the same way over and over again–that there was a sort of escalation to the scares and an unexpected nature to them,” Finn explained.

One scene posed a big problem, though: the birthday party scene. Rose shows up at her sister’s house for her nephew’s birthday after insisting she couldn’t come. She brings a present, a toy train the audience saw her wrapping earlier in the film. Except, the train is suspiciously absent from the box and replaced with Rose’s dead cat instead.

“The birthday party scene was a major logistical challenge with the extras and so many children around, and also what Sosie had to do in the middle of all of that,” Finn continued. The scene is disturbing, both for the characters and the audience. Watching an excited little boy go from celebrating his birthday to being traumatized is mortifying, but it’s an integral scene in showcasing how far Rose has fallen.

After the reveal of the cat, Rose sees the smiling entity again, panics, and falls through her sister’s glass coffee table in front of the entire party, only adding to the horror these kids witnessed.

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