Director: Parker Finn
Writer: Parker Finn
Starring: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn, and Rob Morgan
Smile is the feature length directorial debut from Parker Finn, based on his short film Laura Hasn’t Slept. It’s a reimagining of the classic Japanese horror film Ringu, while also dealing with the theme of trauma working in a cycle.
The film starts by introducing Dr Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), who as a child found her mother’s body after she’d died of a drug overdose. While dealing that traumatic event, as an adult Rose has set out to help people, working as a doctor at an emergency psychiatric hospital. A new patient is brought in, suffering from visions of a people she knows smiling at her. During her first session the patient commits suicide in front of Rose, who then starts to see similar visions.
As you’d expect no one believes Rose, instead they think she’s having a breakdown like her mother did years before. She has no one to turn to, and the whole time she is being haunted by visions of people smiling, getting closer and closer. It’s so simple and yet genuinely scary and tense to watch. You’re never quite sure when it’s going to happen next, and you’re on the edge of your seat for most of the film, waiting for the next scary moment. Just people smiling in a really forced way is deeply unsettling, which creates a really chilling atmosphere that grows slowly, and doesn’t ever let up throughout the film.
As Rose is investigating what’s happening she discovers that it’s a cycle that’s been repeating itself. Much like the video tape in Ringu/The Ring, whoever is cursed will end up committing suicide in front of someone else and pass the curse on to them. The biggest difference, is there’s no specific time limit, some only last four days, while others manage a week. There’s the constant anticipation that the curse could take hold at any point, and Rose is never safe.
Sosie Bacon is magnificent as Rose. She makes the entire film with its outlandish premise work, with a believable performance that’s filled with genuine fear. You instantly connect with her and want her to survive what’s happening. Her fear feels real, and that makes all of the horror that much more heightened. There are some wonky performances from the side characters, but that’s not too much of a distraction.
This is definitely something you want to go into without seeing the trailer. One of the best scares is ruined by the trailer, and everyone in the screening I was in tensed up when we saw the big moment coming. It’s a shame that it was spoiled, as the trailer was already good without that moment. If you’ve seen it, then you know the moment. In the actual film, there is a slight over-reliance on jump scares which is frustrating, and sadly, the ending is incredibly weak. You can see it coming way too soon, and it’s not original in the slightest. It even has one of those annoyingly obvious fake-out endings.
The journey makes it all worth it though, and while there is a lot of jump scares, the majority of them work. The atmosphere is creepy, and Sosie Bacon gives one hell of a performance. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in pure terror.
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