The Smiling Man packs a lot of chills but not quite enough weird into its 8 minutes.
The FX, its cinematography and the sound design are great. This is a better IT: CHAPTER TWO released two years prior to IT: CHAPTER ONE, down to the use of multicolored balloons, a reference to Stephen King’s original book (per an article I skimmed written by ScreenGeek’s Jacob Dressler). It’s a shame most people who see this will assume A.J. Briones stole it from the most recent movie adaptation.
Even if you’re distracted by that, you’re also freaked out by the command of the staging. There’s eerie tension and lovely stake-building, but ultimately, I wish Strange Dave’s monster was a little more strange. While I appreciated its’ prehistoric Pennywise, I was primed to be scared further. I craved for the Smiling Man to look more banal, like that music teacher I never quite liked and I still don’t know why but I know it’s not good. But maybe that’s just my therapy talking.
My favorite part of the proceedings felt accidental: the child actress that the Smiling Man is haunting looks so disinterested, almost bored when faced by this over-the-top monster. As if she wanted the director to go in a different direction too. It made me hope we’d be seeing her devour the Smiling Man… but it was not to be.
That said: if you must make another IT sequel, hire A.J. Briones. Hopefully he’d turn you down and make his own movie with Stranger Dave. If that happens, I know I’ll be smiling in my kitchen.