Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Making The Mark is a Slice of Culture* series where newly released flicks are watched and reviewed by yours truly! I’ll be grading certain movies “Miss” or “Make The Mark,” and give a final rating out of 10.

“Don’t Worry Darling” dir. Olivia Wilde, 4/10

Picture this: A life free from all forms of economic or social anxiety. A place where everyone fits in. A place where everyone loves and sees the value you have for your community.

The world Olivia Wilde builds in “Don’t Worry Darling” is seemingly a retro paradise.

The town of Victory is a haven that is free from the shackles and bonds of the stress-inducing bustle of urban living, and the dreadful monotony of rural areas. But deep within this hidden gem of a community lies a dark secret that Alice, a housewife played by Florence Pugh, works to unlock.

It would be a disservice to talk about this movie without acknowledging the media fiasco surrounding the alleged behind-the-scenes drama that occurred. On-set screaming matches, actors fired, spit exchanges, ooh-la-la! The juicy Hollywood drama the industry has sorely missed is the thing that alerted many to the film in the first place — including myself.

Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of Harry Styles, when I first heard he would be the leading man in a Hollywood production, I received the news with no real surprise. He is the most famous man in the world, of course, he’d lead a movie eventually! But then I saw the infamous clip of Styles apparently spitting directly into Chris Pine’s lap, and the dive into the rabbit hole began.

Of course, the drama has already been well documented by people much more invested, with much more time on their hands.

You want to hear about the movie, right? You want the answer to the burning question that has been laying in your mind since the clip of Styles astutely pointing out that the movie feels like a…movie. “Mark, is the movie good? Does the drama make it all worth it?”

I can safely say, no! It does not! Sorry! Pack it up. We’re done here. Caso cerrado.

Harry Styles, right, plays the character of Jack, Alice’s husband.(Courtesy of The Koalition)

Jokes aside, the movie is by no means terrible.

It boasts a cast with incredible star power, with Florence Pugh being the clear highlight of the film, giving a top-notch performance as per usual. The setting, costume and set design are all wonderfully remarkable. It makes the world much more believable and realized.

With whatever CGI the film used, I never noticed a single instance where I never believed what I saw. Wilde, who also stars in the film, also gave a good performance.

The problem lies in the film’s jarring sense of pacing, its sometimes bewildering direction, confusing story beats and most notably the leading man himself is entirely unimpressive. 

Styles plays the character of Jack, Alice’s husband, who knows the town’s disturbing secret. His performance — as a character hidden under layers of mystery — felt like it could have been done more justice if portrayed by a more experienced actor.

For me, while the film stands to be pretty inoffensive, it tries too hard to be a better movie than it is. It is why for me, “Don’t Worry Darling” Missed The Mark, and my final rating is a 4/10.

“Smile” dir. Parker Finn, 6/10

TRIGGER WARNING: The film contains graphic depictions and descriptions of suicide.

Dr. Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist with a troubled past, is deeply devoted to her job.

She is relentless in her pursuit to help others going through struggles with mental health. However, after a sudden visit by a patient claiming to be cursed by an entity that boasts a terrifying smile, her life is thrown completely upside down. In this near 2-hour-long horror, Dr. Cotter must now break this curse that she has been afflicted with, and through this journey confront her own suppressed trauma.

To give the long and short of it, “Smile” is a very well made horror film that will definitely give viewers a fright! The stand out performance by Sosie Bacon as Dr. Cotter is highly noteworthy and really lends the audience to extend their sympathy to the character. If you like a good scare, and want a perfect date movie, this one is for you.

The horror this movie dishes out also grades above other films in the genre. The jump scares feel earned rather than cheap, and the body horror will leave you completely stunned.

However, as an avid fan of horror, I have admittedly high standards for what I believe movies in the genre can achieve. After walking out of this movie, I came to the conclusion that “Smile” is just “Hereditary” for dumb people, and “Final Destination” for smart people.

While the movie holds its own as far as production and performances are concerned, the movie takes inspiration from many other previous horror flicks, so much so that it feels less inspired as it does lazy.

The movie’s main theme centers around trauma. It is hard to miss that, since the nature of the film’s central “curse” is that it is passed through witnessing traumatic events. This is, to me, a direct inspiration from films like “Hereditary” and many other horror films from the 2010’s that center around the same idea of trauma being passed down or spread to others.

The movie also takes elements from films like “The Ring” and “Final Destination” with the plot revolving around the protagonist attempting to break a deadly curse that will kill them in about a week. It is trope that I believe has already run its course at this point, and the film’s plot is almost the exact same as the films previously mentioned. 

The movie also leads itself to a conclusion about trauma that I believe would have given the audience a positive message to take home about how we should be processing trauma. But the final twist at the end suddenly uproots any positive message it could have had in my opinion, leading to a lesson about trauma that feels naïve at best, and insulting at its worst. 

While I believe this film still Makes The Mark as an entertaining horror flick, it leaves much to be desired with its central lesson about trauma. If you want to see this film purely for the horror, by all means, but don’t go into expecting much in the way of a good lesson or theme. “Smile” earns a 6/10.

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