“There’s a renaissance of female-led horror films right now”: Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Jessie T Usher and Parker Finn on Smile
Smile is the new horror movie from first-time director Parker Finn, expanding on short film Laura Hasn’t Slept that he previously made in 2020. Sosie Bacon takes on the role of Dr Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist who has the unenviable task of working with patients coming into the emergency ward, invariably in acute states of mental breakdown. However, her professional demeanour and skill in supporting her patients is finally pushed to a new limit with the arrival of Laura, a severely distressed young woman who speaks of a vision wearing a sinister grin haunting her ever since witnessing a suicide.
What ensues is reminiscent of old-school style horror – Stephen King’s IT meets The Ring – in its invocation of our inner fears and demons manifesting themselves somewhere between dream and reality with a frightening tangibility, and the contagious, inescapable chain of a curse. But it also combines these retro tropes with the more psychological bent of contemporary movies, particularly in the way it centres its story on the female experience of trauma and how distressing events can live on in the body and mind. In a way, are we all haunted by our pasts? Our mistakes? Are our own imaginations and memories what we fear most? And, on a basic level, is there anything more wrong than putting on a smile when it doesn’t reflect how one feels?
Bacon seems to have inherited some of her father Kevin’s (Friday 13th, Flatliners, Stir of Echoes, Hollow Man) aptitude for the genre. Her ability to capture the nuanced grades of Rose’s mental deterioration is impeccable, putting the audience right into her terrifying shoes for every sanity-testing moment and jump-out-of-your-skin scare. Jessie T Usher (The Boys) and Kyle Gallner (Outsiders) also make convincing work of the two very contrasting two men in her life, with initial expectations of each eventually subverted. While the film can feel slightly derivative at times, it could be argued that, in rooting its story in established scary movie ideas, it taps into and plays upon our memories of being afraid when we were young. Certainly, in terms of its ability to make palms sweat, hearts race and the lights stay on at night, Smile is as effective a horror as they come. Designed to be seen on the big screen, this will remind viewers of the power of the scary movie to make them feel something.
The Upcoming sat down with the main cast, including Bacon and her costars, to discuss why they were drawn to be part of the film.
We also heard from the director about his influences and his cast, particularly how he worked with Bacon.
Smile is released nationwide on 28th September 2022.
Watch the trailer for Smile here: