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Smile (18)

Cast: Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Jessie T Usher, Kal Penn, Caitlin Stasey
Genre: Horror
Author(s): Parker Finn
Director: Parker Finn
Release Date: 28/09/2022
Running Time: 115mins
Country: US
Year: 2022

Dr Rose Cotter leads a consultation with a disturbed patient, Laura Weaver, who claims she is the only person who can see a pernicious threat. During the session, a rictus grin becomes affixed to Laura's face before she takes her own life. Against the advice of colleague Dr Morgan Desai, Rose probes Laura's case. She finds evidence of other victims, who complained that a dark entity smiled at them before they took their own lives. Rose fears she is being stalked by the same demonic force.


LondonNet Film Review

Smile (15) Film Review from LondonNet

Curses are highly infectious in the horror genre, from the urban legend of a killer videotape in the Ring films to the invisible angel of death that stalks survivors of transportation tragedy in the Final Destination franchise. More recently in It Follows, writer-director David Robert Mitchell conjured a ghoulish manifestation that takes the form of family, friends or total strangers, and transmits between unfortunate souls through intimate physical contact: a delicious desecration of safe sex. Writer-director Parker Finn adopts a similar dramatic framework for his cheerfully titled supernatural horror, expanded from the award-winning 2020 short film Laura Hasn’t Slept…

Smile imagines a malevolent presence that feeds on trauma and automatically transfers to a witness of a victim’s gruesome demise. An arbitrary seven-day timeframe between deaths provides Finn’s waking nightmare with dramatic momentum, punctuated by a couple of decent jump scares and a discordant soundtrack composed by Cristobal Tapia de Veer that sends chills down the spine. Woozy camerawork adds to our disorientation including clear nods to cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski’s exemplary work on Midsommar with not one but two recreations of the memorable upside-down driving shot.

Dr Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) works in the emergency psychiatric unit of a busy hospital under Dr Morgan Desai (Kal Penn), tending to troubled patients including a new arrival, Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey). The grad student recently witnessed her university professor bludgeon himself to death with a hammer and has been admitted after a public disturbance. Laura tearfully confides that she is the only person who can see a pernicious threat, which takes on the form of other people. During a tense exchange, a rictus grin becomes affixed to Laura’s face as she forcibly takes one shard of a broken vase to her throat.

The suicide triggers memories of Rose’s troubled relationship with her mother (Dora Kiss) and she takes a week’s paid leave to recuperate with her therapist Dr Madeline Northcott (Robin Weigert). Unwisely, Rose probes Laura’s case with the help of ex-boyfriend Joel (Kyle Gallner), who happens to work as a police detective and has easy access to crime scene photos of other victims. Convinced she will die within a week, Rose teeters on the brink of sleep-deprived madness, endangering her fiance Trevor (Jessie T Usher), sister Holly (Gillian Zinser), brother-in-law Greg (Nick Arapoglou) and their young son Jackson (Matthew Lamb).

Smile mines fear from a muscle contraction that traditionally conveys pleasure and approval, feelings that Finn’s picture works hard (and not always successfully) to earn. Make-up effects during the protracted final showdown are impressive but there’s a grim inevitability to the overall design with potential sequels in mind. Bacon’s nerve-jangling central performance is frequently more compelling that the film plodding around her, which could comfortably lop off chunks of the 115-minute running time.

-Jo Planter


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