As we go into Halloween season the first of the big screen horror films is Smile a seemingly contradictory title that here is more of a psychotic grin that is first glimpsed and terrifies Dr Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) a psychiatrist who carries out a first 1-2-1 assessment with new patient Laura (Caitlin Stasey) a jumpy, shaking bag of nerves. But as her assessment develops in a prolonged scene Laura explains that someone or something is actually after her explaining, ‘It’s looks like people but it’s not a person’ – a message echoed by Kanye West’s manager. Moments later with a malevolent smile on her face Laura proceeds to slit her own throat in a lingering and painful shot to watch.
It’s little surprise that Rose finds herself traumatized by what’s happened right before her triggering as it does childhood memories of her own mother’s suicide. Understandably upset she’s hardly helped through her trauma by her partner Trevor or her sister or brother in law who throughout use words like ‘crazies’ or ‘nutjobs’ showing that despite society’s increased understanding and sympathy for those suffering from MH issues it clearly hasn’t reached those closet to her. Even her own therapist has her doubts about Rose’s claim. Her cause is hardly helped when she insists she herself is cursed and haunted by the same grinning nightmarish visions that Laura suffered and her only escape is seemingly to end it all in the same gory manner. The only one who does offer Rose some support and lends her belief some credibility is an old flame Joel, a cop who begins to assist her exploration of the supernatural mystery and finds a pattern to what is going on.
Written and directed by Parker Finn this has been opened up from his short film in much the same way as ‘Lights Out’ was but equally struggles slightly with a expanding its mythology to feature length never quite making it clear whether this is some sort of demon force feeding off people’s anxieties or traumas. At its centre is a great performance by Sosie Bacon gradually unravelling with the surrounding characters not sure whether she is having a breakdown, an anxiety attack or suffering a full blown psychotic episode but is exhaustingly sustained as the horror around her elevates. Smile has set itself up as an intended franchise starter and very much of the jump scare type horror many of which are well orchestrated with a couple of scenes of unsettling unease which are guaranteed to conjure up anything but a smile.
Watch the Smile trailer HERE