Director Parker Finn makes his feature film debut by writing and directing an adaptation of his own 2020 short film Laura Hasn’t Slept. The decidedly creepy Smile has already received the approval of author Stephen King, who described it on Twitter as a “good, scary horror film”, adding that he was thoroughly impressed with Sosie Bacon’s performance in the leading role.
Dr Rose Cotter (Bacon) works in an emergency psych ward as a therapist. A new patient, Laura (Caitlin Stasey), is severely traumatised by a terrifying incident she recently witnessed and has since been experiencing visions of a shape-shifting spirit with an evil grin. Rose is sceptical and dismisses Laura’s experience as a temporary symptom of post-traumatic stress – but she is forced to take the matter more seriously when their meeting takes a horrific turn.
The central idea of the plot is not too dissimilar from that of The Ring, in which a chain curse causes its victims to perish within seven days of coming into contact with it. It is also reminiscent of Hereditary and It Follows when it comes to the theme of psychological demons and how they can torment people in a domino effect. Although unoriginal, the link to trauma and its virus-like propagation is a strong point in the film as it adds a layer of meaning to the gore and fleshes out the characters.
Smile is undoubtedly very well-executed, but once the premise is set out, it plays out predictably. The jump scares are relatively effective and Finn succeeds in creating a haunting atmosphere from the get-go, but ultimately, it’s a typical psychological horror about an ancient curse, and it doesn’t even get to the root of the mystery.
The film’s scariest moments are the ones in which Rose’s mind plays tricks on her and the lines are blurred between reality and a menacing, distorted version of events. While it’s perhaps too clichéd to really impress or leave a lasting effect, Smile is still a satisfyingly sinister horror that ticks enough boxes to make it a box-office success.
Smile is released nationwide on 28th September 2022.
Watch the trailer for Smile here: