Scary movies can be hard to come by. While plenty of horror films are released year in and year out, many of them are extremely formulaic. And while they have the odd jump, they can’t keep you scared from start to finish. Director Parker Finn attempts to change that with his first feature length film Smile, and he does a pretty damn good job of it.
Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) works in the psychiatric emergency ward of a New Jersey hospital, where she meets a PHD student who claims an entity wearing other people’s faces is haunting her. No one can see or hear the smiling creature other than her, but it’s been following her around ever since she witnessed her professor commit suicide in front of her. When Rose calls security for help after the student freaks out, the student kills herself, passing the curse onto Rose. Very shortly afterwards strange things start to happen. And Rose finds herself in a race against time to figure out a way to stop the curse. She’s also trying to prevent her own suicide.
Smile is an extremely creepy and unsettling film, which seems odd to say considering smiles generally aren’t considered to be a bad thing. One of the things Finn does so well is drawing out the stressful moments. You want to turn away from the screen before seeing something jump out at you. Many horror film directors go for the quick and dirty, getting you to jump right away. But Finn doesn’t do that. He prefers letting you know something is going to happen, while playing with your anxiety for as long as possible.
If there’s one complaint about the film, it’s that it does follow a typical horror movie formula, in that it feels like The Ring or It Follows. In those films, a large part involves a character trying to figure out a way of solving their predicament that doesn’t involve them dying. Thankfully it doesn’t detract from the overall creepiness of the film. And it holds its own by providing a story that doesn’t go the way you might expect it to go.
Smile wouldn’t be as good as it is either, without Bacon playing her role with conviction. While she does do a few things many of us wouldn’t dream of doing when facing such horrors. It’s refreshing that she’s not so predictable. You really get a clear sense of who she is, and why she reacts the way she does.
With Halloween right around the corner, seeing a scary movie might be on your list of ways to celebrate. If you are looking for some creepy chills while watching something new, Smile is a great choice.