Your eyes are the doorway to your soul, a smile is the light to your soul. The human expressions tell us many things about a person, those expressions come to fold in Parker Finn’s debut feature Smile.
Like the opening scene of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, what we see on the surface is not always we we get below the surface. That film paraded the perfect Americana, however as the camera panned lower amongst the mud another world, darker lives. Finn’s film tackles trauma with a sadistic, effective yet derivative, dementedly effective horror.
Sosie Bacon (daughter of Kevin Bacon) plays Rose Cotter, dedicated her life as a psychiatrist. Helping others with mental illness, as she leaves her office after another long shift she gets a call. A new patient (Catlin Stasey) is coming to her. She claims Malevolent grinning, body swapping entities pushing their victims to kill themselves after smiling, they ‘smile’ at her grotesquely. Now Rose herself world starts to unravel as she starts to see this entity too . Determined not to die she tries to figure out to stop this threat , or are these old wounds reopened? All thanks to over working this has triggered childhood traumas, PTSD that has haunted her all her life.
The film opens with a flashback, of a woman dying on her bed and a young girl staring at her. This is Rose and the catalyst to her own trauma. Trauma and Mental illness are no strangers to the horror genre. Smile isn’t original in it’s origins (based on Finn’s 2020 Laura Hasn’t Slept Short), this doesn’t mean this film isn’t great, it’s far from it. Thematically the film shares elements from the likes of The Ring and It Follows.
Parker Finn uses Jump scares as well as Charlie Saroff’s Dutch angle cinematography to unearth the horrors. Also Juan Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s unsettling sound design keeps you on the edge throughout. Once again proving the importance of getting the right marriage between the film and it’s sound Design. Even silence itself plays a pivotal part of the film.
Smile is a genuinely creepy film. It doesn’t hide from the fact mental illness, trauma effects us all, including those professionally there to help us. It showcases the cathartic world anyone who suffers from the illness finds themselves in. It’s a world that feels isolated, emotional and even stigmatised. After watching this you may not react the same way to anyone who smiles at you again!
Horror, Mystery | USA, 2022 | 15 | 4K, Blu-ray, DVD | 26th December 2022 (UK) | Paramount Home Entertainment | Dir. Parker Finn | Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Rob Morgan, Kal Penn
This review was originally posted t The Peoples Movies on 26th December 2022 | Original review link