By: Amanda Guarragi
Horror movies have different ways of getting inside our heads. Sometimes it’s more so the thought of the concept than actually seeing it on screen. Smile shows a spirit following your every move and waiting to consume you. After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past to survive and escape her horrifying new reality. Newcomer Parker Finn did a great job in directing his first horror feature and made some unique choices that went back to the roots of horror.
It feels like jump scares are scarce these days and it’s because some horror films are more focused on other elements. Sometimes the anticipation isn’t built properly and the score fades into the background, but Smile delivered on those fronts. The script is the main issue with Smile as it gets repetitive and dwindles when Rose investigates this spirit’s previous victims. It drags in the middle as she slowly loses her mind and doesn’t know what her reality is anymore. Even though Bacon gives a strong performance, the script is what brings her down. Parker Finn tried to tie in Rose’s past to the spirit to create this grand finale of facing her trauma, but it didn’t make sense to incorporate it the way they did. It felt like he didn’t know how to end the film.
What Parker Finn does deliver are the scares. After watching many horror films, some can feel numb to the jump scares or anything remotely startling. So for Smile to anticipate the spirit’s every move and create that suspense, it did the job it set out to do. Even with its weak script, when certain deaths happen it comes as a shock and some visuals will stay burned in your mind. The idea of having a person smile at you in a sinister, taunting manner days before your death is somewhat horrifying. But, the script also handles mental health poorly when exploring the nature of this concept. It may be difficult for some to watch because it does discuss suicide and the spirit being tied to mental illness. Nothing is fully being addressed with Rose’s mental health; it is just used to integrate her trauma in the third act. It’s as if they needed a reason for others to believe that she was unstable before the spirit.
Smile delivers on the scares, making it entertaining for the most part. The script is the weakest aspect as it does slow down in the middle and loses the thrilling aspects that made the film’s first half interesting. The jumps are placed to reel the viewer back in when it gets dull in certain places. For the most part, Sosie Bacon’s performance was strong up until the third act. It is entertaining because of the tension in certain scenes and some scares that came out of nowhere. The way Finn created this warped reality for Rose worked in some instances, but unfortunately, the film was a bit too predictable towards the end. It’s a fun film to watch for the jump scares, but not a memorable one because of the generic script.