There seems to be a horror subgenre. The cursed horror is when a person sees something or does something and becomes cursed, then spends the rest of the movie trying to shake off the curse. Movies like The Ring and It Follows are perfect examples. Now we have Smile, which also falls into that sub-genre, and while it’s not very original and often predictable, it does showcase a new director to keep your eye on, and some moments are incredibly creepy.
Dr Rose Cotter works at an emergency hospital where a young patient is brought in. Explaining that she had experienced the violent suicide of a teacher, Rose witnesses an incident that leaves her shaken. Taking some time to recover, she starts seeing things that others cannot, and while investigating the incident, she finds a pattern that causes pure horror in her life.
First-time feature director and writer Parker Finn have delivered a routine horror that won’t surprise anyone with how the plot plays out. What he has done, however, is created a world in which you find yourself genuinely creeped out. His visuals are awe-inspiring, borrowing the upside world used in Midsommar but then adding a few neat camera tricks to capture the atmosphere of the piece.
Following the plight of Rose, a psychiatric doctor who has faced her own personal trauma in her past, she has a perfect life, even if she cares too much about her patients by working impossible hours. She has a loving relationship with her fiance, who understands but wants her to ease the workload. This concern could be the reasoning behind her erratic behaviour, as she finds herself the victim of something unexplainable. Even turning to her ex, a police detective assigned to the case, doesn’t seem to ease the burden.
Finn cranks up the tension within the first ten minutes and refuses to let it drop. Instead, we see Rose going from a level-headed doctor to someone who could easily be one of her patients. She grapples with things no one can see and becomes concerned with her obsessive behaviour, but we, the audience, know exactly why.
Where the film does falter is the length. At almost 2 hours, it’s far too long and could have been done with some trimming. The effects are also lacking in finesse, with one scene coming across as almost laughable. Maybe it’s time to go back to good physical effects instead of relying on CGI. But, for some reason, they are getting worse and sloppy over the years.
The performances are pretty unremarkable except for Sosie Bacon, who plays Rose. The daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, she carries the film magnificently. We watch her crumbling before our very eyes, and it’s a performance that shows so much promise for the future. She even looks like The Exorcist star, Linda Blair.
Smile may not be original, but it is an effectively creepy film with some terrifying moments. It also has a star and a director who should be watched as I am sure they will go on to bigger things. You may never trust someone smiling ever again.
3 out of 5
Director: Parker Finn
Starring: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Robin Weigert, Kal Penn
Written by: Parker Finn
Running Time: 115 mins
Release date: 28th September 2022