“Smile” is a movie that thinks you need to turn that frown upside-down. That is, as long as you like vaguely superstitious, unsettling horror movies. Movies such as ‘The Ring’ and ‘It Follows’. Movies that have some unnamed evil presence that gets you in the end. Only in this movie, it’s much more fun – because you get to wear a crazed smile before you die.
Dr. Rose Cotter (played by Sosie Bacon) is an overworked and guilt-ridden therapist who works in a psychiatric emergency ward. She was only ten-years old when she her mother committed suicide. That always haunts her, and she feels guilt and now really dislikes her older sister, Holly (played by Gillian Zinzer). Holly was gone that day that her mom died. Rose has had all she can take with her patients and off-the-street weirdoes. Her boss, Dr. Morgan Desai (played by Kal Penn), tells her to take time off, or else she will go nuts.
Rose is just about to leave when she gets a last-minute phone call. There is a young woman brought in from making a disturbance. She is a PhD undergrad who is named Laura Weaver (played by Caitlin Stasey). She is scared out of her mind, because she is sure that an unnatural presence is in her life and has taken over. She can see people, people that nobody else can see. All the time she sees them, they are just smiling.
Laura had a traumatic experience just about a week ago. There was a man — who must have been totally mad — and he smiled at Laura. This man smiled as he killed himself, in a bloody, gory and disgusting manner. She has not been able to unsee what she saw. It has kept her up every night, unable to sleep — not without seeing that gruesome face in the shadows.
Rose senses that Laura is about to snap. She gets to the phone to call for backup security. But then the room is silent. Rose turns around to see Laura — and she is smiling ear to ear. Laura is smiling, just before she commits suicide in front of Rose in a bloody, gory and disgusting manner.
Rose Cotter is in a state of shock. And maybe that explains some of the odd things that begin to happen to her. She meets with her fiancé, Trevor (played by Jessie T. Usher), at their house. Rose is shattered inside and scared. But she does not want to let that out to Trevor. She wants to cuddle with her cute little cat. But while she is alone, the alarms in the house go off and she gets weird phone calls. Oh no – her cute little cat went missing!
Rose is feeling pretty bad, not knowing if she is having some type of mental breakdown — or if she is really being followed by some supernatural presence. She goes to her sister’s house for her nephew’s birthday party. Rose is feeling some evil presence in the room, like there is a person there, but nobody else can she them but her. Of course, there is a big ol’ smile on that face. Hey, maybe your nephew can help you find your cat while he is opening presents, huh?
Rose is banished from her sister’s house. She tries to go home and be with Trevor. But he has called up Rose’s old therapist, an understanding woman named Dr. Madeline Northcott (played by Robin Weigert). Rose feels confronted and wants to get actual help, and not mental help. There is nothing wrong with her, you see.
She is caught in some type of evil trap of supernatural serial suicide brought on by some unknown entity, you see. It is some entity, some “Monstrosity” that breaks you down mentally and physically. This is all done by appearing as random person who is smiling at you. Glad Rose is far from crazy!
Rose leaves the therapy session that never started, and she goes off to find her old boyfriend. This is her old police detective boyfriend Joel (played by Kyle Gallner). He is wary that Rose has come back to see him. He is especially upset that she wants to research police report about suicides. He stars with Rose’s deceased patient, Laura.
He finds out that Laura was present when a retired art professor committed suicide in front of her. But then it goes further and further back. Each person who killed themselves had watched another person die by their own hand. This other person committed suicide in a bloody, gory and disgusting manner.
So there is a supernatural serial suicide trap that was set. And Rose happened to step into this trap. But there was one person who escaped that trap. But that would require a horrible and despicable act to occur. That would not be something that Rose thinks she could do. But if committing a murder would allow Rose to escape the ‘trap’…
But what if there is nobody around to see her own suicide, if Rose decides to end it all? Does any of this relate to her mother? Many people thought that she had mental issues. Then her mother committed suicide. If her mother had those issues, does Rose have them now? Is there any way out of the trap that has been set?
“Smile” is a disturbing movie that has an effective way of making you shudder and squirm. If that is the point, then it is a job well done! The Writer and Director (Parker Finn) is actually expanding on his own short movie. Of course, adding the extra time and talented actors, production designers, composers, and editors make the movie much more polished. Not every piece of the jigsaw comes together completely, but does have an impact.
Sosie Bacon (starring as Rose) does a truly excellent job in this role. She really gives it a powerful performance. Even when the character is not detailed and fleshed-out as you might hope, she makes a way for you to feel the dread that Rose must be feeling. Of course, some of this talent might run in her family. Her father is actor Kevin Bacon
“Smile” makes you think twice whenever you see somebody give you a crazed ear-to-ear smile. You might not know what that person has in mind. If they still in their own mind…
Written and Directed by: Parker Finn
Based on “Laura Hasn’t Slept” by: Parker Finn
Starring: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn
Cinematography: Charlie Sarroff
Edited by: Elliot Greenberg
Music by: Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date: September 30, 2022
Length: 115 minutes
MPAA rating: R for strong violent content and grisly images, and language.