How can a smile be so insidious, so evil?! One look at the poster above and you’ll know how. Smile, directed by debutant Parker Finn is a story about an evil curse that passes on from one person to another and has been doing so for a while. When a patient commits suicide in front of Doctor Rose, a psychiatrist, she starts experiencing supernatural elements in her life, pretty similar to what the patient claimed to have seen before her death. This leads to a chain of events that unleashes hell on Rose and how or if she is able to defeat this curse is rest of the story.
Smile is a smart movie, it doesn’t waste time in setting up the story, it jumps right into it. This is what sets the foundation for a good horror movie. The use of a sinister smile to scare the audience is a brilliant move- a scene where the protagonist is crossing a patient’s room in the hospital and the patient inside is sitting inside with a big evil smile on his face sent chills down my spine. There are many brilliant scenes as such and the movie times its jump scares extremely well, never toiling with the line. Parker Finn who has previously directed a couple of short horror flicks knows his craft well. He uses slow moving sequences and then throws in an unexpected jump scare right at you to catch you off guard. The scenes are well shot and the camerawork is excellent, to say the least. The background music makes for an unsettling atmosphere and backs the narrative.
Sosie Bacon who plays Doctor Rose is pretty much in every frame of the movie. She plays the daughter of a mentally ill woman who has come out battling her own demons and seems to be doing fine before tragedy strikes her again in the form of this curse. A special mention for Caitlin Stasey who plays the patient and gives you the creeps in a terrific scene where her character kills herself to pass on the curse to Sosie’s character. The smile on her face (the same one on the poster) is extremely devilish and unsettling. Rest of the cast is decent but the heavy lifting is done by Sosie who gives a very convincing performance.
Smile is a movie about mental illness and the present condition of Rose is very often compared to her traumatic childhood and how she was unable to help her sick mother because she was scared of her. Mental illnesses and suicides are extremely sad realities and the movie uses a horror analogy to describe the pain of such trauma. Where Smile lacks conviction is the makers’ attempt to portray the importance of mental health as the movie also needs to stick to its genre and we are well reminded of it, at every step of the way. The treatment is pretty similar to one movie that I really liked “It Follows” and hence “Smile” isn’t pathbreaking when it comes to using a premise as such. Also, a few scenes towards the end become predictable and the makers seem to have compensated logic for jump scares in some instances. Nevertheless, Smile is still a very satisfying watch especially at times when a good horror movie is a distant dream.
“Smile” works largely because of a terrific performance by Sosie Bacon who, as the movie progresses and her character’s condition worsens, brings out the true acting skills in her blood to full effect. The movie is unsettling, creepy, scary and has decent jump scares and camera angles that totally work in its favour. I watched it alone in an entire theatre and I can’t say that life has been the same, ever since. Never in my wildest imaginations, had I thought that a smile can also be so haunting, so terrifying. I am going with 3 stars out of 5.