Directed by: Parker Finn
Written by: Parker Finn
Starring: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Robin Weigert, Rob Morgan & Kal Penn.
Another fall season, another new crop of horror movies are hitting the theaters. But, this one is a bit different from some of the others in the pack. ‘Smile‘ is written and directed by Parker Finn and not only does it have a solidly original premise, it is also quite terrifying. You know exactly what I am talking about – a lot of scary movies that we see the previews for throughout the year don’t live up the hype or they end up falling apart towards the end because they don’t know how to wrap it up properly. Luckily, that is far from the case with this film. Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is a psychologist at a hospital who works with patients suffering from various forms of mental disorders. On her way out of her office, she fields one last call about a young female gad student named Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey) who is brought in to the hospital suffering from violent psychosis stating that an evil force is following and tormenting her. She says it wears other peoples’ faces and even took the form of her deceased grandfather recently. It keeps smiling at her. Suddenly, she starts screaming after she “sees it” appear in the room right behind Rose. As Rose tries to calm her down and then goes to the phone to call for help, she notices that Laura has stopped screaming. As Rose turns to look at her, she sees that Laura has picked up a piece of the ceramic vase that was overturned and broken when Laura kicked over the table. Laura stands, unblinking, smiling at Rose… and then proceeds to cut herself open from ear to ear across her own throat. After speaking with the police, Rose is sent home to rest but soon begins catching glimpses of Laura around her house. As the days go one, she begins experiencing unexplainable events and hearing voices and then seeing people around her smiling and telling her that she’s going to die.
Her fiance (played by Jessie T. Usher) refuses to believe her and brings up the mental health issues that her mother suffered from that led to her own suicide. After an incident at her nephew’s birthday party, her sister and brother-in-law cut her off as well. The only person she can turn to is her ex-boyfriend who also happens to be one of the detectives who was investigating her patient’s suicide. As Rose digs into the mystery surrounding Laura Weaver’s odd behavior and death, she finds that there is a pattern involving the person who just killed themselves also witnessing a gruesome suicide just a week prior to their own. The pattern goes back over several months with only 1 person, Robert Talley (played by Rob Morgan), who managed to survive the cycle. After visiting Robert in prison where he is doing time for a grizzly murder, Rose learns that there is only one way to break the cycle and save herself from the same fate as Laura. But will she be able to do it before she is consumed by the evil entity that is now targeting her?
In a world of remakes and repackaging of ideas, especially in the horror genre, I always appreciate an original concept. That’s one of the things this film does well. There are similar notes in the Denzel Washington movie ‘Fallen‘ (one of my favorites!) but nothing that is a direct parallel or comparison to this one. Another thing I loved was the sound design. The background music almost seems like ambient, random noises that ramp up in both volume and frequency of occurrence as the film progresses and as Rose’s mental state continues to diminish so the audience has that feeling of losing their minds right along with the main character. And speaking of the main character, Sosie Bacon’s performance is absolutely wonderful. Her decent into apparent madness mixed with the helpless feeling of having no one believe her is equal parts horrifying and heartbreaking. But my biggest praise is saved for the reveal at the end. No spoilers, of course, but there are so many scary movies that build up finally seeing the monster / demon / big bad in the climax of the film and it’s never as terrifying as what your imagination had in store. ‘Smile’ is a film that actually delivers in that arena! It could be the juxtaposition of having seen it take the form of humans that Rose knew up until that point of just the circumstances in which the reveal takes place but I, for one, was very impressed with the payoff here. All of this wrapped up into a well-paced 1hr and 55 min run time makes ‘Smile’ the best horror movie I’ve seen this year and I give it a 9 out of 10!! Be sure to get out and see it in your local theater this weekend.