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Parker Finn Was Dead Set On Including Jump Scares In Smile

Audiences were first hooked in and squirming in their seats when the "Smile" teaser trailer debuted before "Top Gun: Maverick" in the summer of 2022. When the movie was released in the fall of 2022, the film was a runaway success. Gaining $215 million at the worldwide box office and positive critical receptions, "Smile" solidified that audiences still had an appetite for original horror films in a year that also saw the releases and financial and critical successes of movies like "Nope" and "Barbarian."

While "Smile" dips its toe in the subgenre known as "elevated horror," it still contains many jump scares, which tend to be more of a signifier of goofy or manipulative horror. Examples of elevated horror in recent years would be films like "It Comes at Night" or "Midsommar" — slower-paced movies that deal with things like trauma where horror acts as a metaphor throughout the films.

Classic examples of jump scare movies would be films like "The Conjuring" or "Paranormal Activity" — films where audiences are lulled into a sense of security by the quiet moments in the films only to be startled by a sudden, shocking sound causing audiences to jump. While these prime examples are considered to be modern classics, a lot of jump scare-based movies tend to be written off as low-brow forms of horror. "Smile" director Parker Finn seemed to want to exist in both worlds, where his film heavily deals with character-centric trauma like "elevated horror" of the time, but he was dead set on making sure jump scares were prevalent in the movie.

Parker Finn admitted to loving jump scares in horror movies

In an interview with Indiewire, "Smile" director Parker Finn talked about how he was adamant about including jump scares in the 2022 horror hit. He said that he loves when horror is used as a metaphor in a film, but he said, "I think as a viewer, I get frustrated when it only goes as far as the metaphor and doesn't commit to actually becoming something that is designed to scare the crap out of you." When talking about horror as a metaphor, he is referring to the trend in films considered to be in the elevated horror subgenre that use the metaphors to talk about things like trauma, which is actually what his movie is all about.

However, his use of jump scares in the film might make fans of elevated horror want to write the movie off. Fans sometimes complain that jump scares are an easy way to get a reaction out of an audience without actually presenting them with something that chills them to their core. Finn admitted that he loves jump scares, but he wanted to present them in a way that felt earned so fans that tend to like more elevated scares would be satisfied. He said that the scares "were designed in a way that would keep an audience on their toes, sort of ramping up and changing how it's scaring you."

Parker Finn wanted to make a horror movie that was like a rollercoaster

Parker Finn fully admitted that he wanted to have his cake and eat it too with "Smile." He wanted to present a movie for all fans of the horror genre, whether they're into schlock or art-house fare. He said, "I wanted to make a film that was really craft-focused, that was creating an experience that was quite unique, that was also a character-driven story exploring the human condition. But was also going to make an audience jump out of their seat and scream a lot."

Finn elaborated on his use of jump scares in "Smile" in an interview with /Film before the film's release. He said he didn't want to use cheap jump scares, ala a cat jumping out of a closet and scaring the characters and the audiences but with no actual weight to the story. He said he wanted to have those aforementioned earned jump scares, "But also to have that just ratcheting up the anxiety, the dread, the tension. That, I think paired with some of these jumps, together creates this really potent brew. It was all about just feeling it going through. A lot of filmmaking is that." Finn knows that jumps can be a release for audiences after tensions have been ratcheted up. In that regard, he used jump scares to great effect in the film.