A smile is such a versatile gesture that can convey so many different emotions. It can be used to disarm a stranger, convey utter delight in seeing a friend or family member or it can have a sinister meaning behind it. In terms of horror films, it is more often than not, the latter explanation so it is no surprise that this October audiences will be treated to a new supernatural, psychological thriller called Smile. Starring Sosie Bacon (Loverboy) it is a cautionary tale of just how dangerous a small up curve of one's lips can actually be. Opening in theaters on September 30, 2022, it will make you rethink the way you view a smile.
Dr. Rose Cotter is a Psychiatrist at an intake unit of a local hospital. When a new patient, Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey; I, Frankenstein) checks herself in, she meets with Dr. Cotter. Laura tells Rose that she is a Ph.D. Student and she is not crazy but that something or someone has been after her ever since she was the sole witness to her professor's suicide earlier that week. As Laura becomes more and more hysterical, Rose calls for help. Suddenly, Laura is standing before Rose with a smile on her face before she takes a piece of a broken vase and kills herself. A day later, Rose begins to see things.
Writer/director Parker Finn (Laura Hasn't Slept) makes his feature film directorial debut with Smile and with his first effort, he has set the bar very high for his future directorial works. Utilizing a variety of angles from close-up to wide landscapes he offers the viewer a world where they feel larger than life and infinitely small all at the same time. He sweeps across the countryside, sometimes upside-down, or enters a bedroom in a flashback, again beginning upside-down before turning the picture right side up, to give the audience a different perspective.
Bacon is well cast and takes us through her emotional state as she mentally declines. Beginning as the consummate professional we watch as she ultimately unravels, even though we "know" she is not crazy. We are with her through this agonizing journey even as she tries to understand and stop it from happening. The rest of the cast is good but both Jesse T. Usher (The Boys) and Kal Penn (House) are underutilized and much of their talent is left untapped.
Smile offers every horror fan something, whether it is the supernatural elements, the gore, and blood, the jump scares, or the psychological thriller aspects. Normally one might think that blending all these elements into one movie would be a mistake as each sub-genre could work solo in a movie as we have seen so often in the past. However, Finn manages a nice balance of all different types of horror molded into one two-hour movie. My only criticism of the script is that there are so many sub-plots being explored that none of them get completely "fleshed out" in the 115-minute running time. Perhaps, Finn wanted to leave the door open for a sequel or two.
I tend to enjoy psychological movies that make one think but I'm not generally a big fan of gore and jump scares and I find supernatural movies interesting if they are well done and not cheesy. Smile has a nice balance of each and at no point comes across as cheesy, stupid or otherwise. The flashbacks and premonitions can make things slightly confusing until you realize what is going on but they also add to the whole story.
I could see sequels of Smile being made that delve deeper into Rose's childhood, the demon's origins and motives, and Joel's (Kyle Gallner; Scream) experience with the demon.