If there was an award for the creepiest trailer of the year, Smile would almost certainly have taken the prize. Consequently, my expectations and excitement for seeing this were high and while the end result didn’t quite turn out how I was expecting, it still managed to deliver a very satisfying blend of The Ring and It Follows, among others.
Dr Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) works as a therapist in a hospital psychiatric unit. Early on we learn that Rose has suffered some mental trauma of her own following the death of her mother when Rose was just a young child and her chosen career offers a chance to help others suffering from similar, or much more destructive conditions than that which she experienced. Enter new patient Laura (Caitlin Stasey) – fidgety, on edge and clearly at the end of her tether, but able to describe what’s causing her to be so distressed. Something is after Laura, something only she can see. Sometimes it takes the form of strangers, sometimes friends, and even family members who died many years ago. As Rose tries to get to the bottom of her condition, Laura has another vision which pushes her over the edge. Her screams suddenly turn to calm as a wide, creepy smile crosses her face and she slowly draws a broken piece of vase across her face, taking her own life.
Witnessing somebody horrifically committing suicide right in front of you is certainly more than enough to throw your week off balance, but when Rose begins to experience strange happenings occurrences, it’s enough for her partner Trevor (Jessie T. Usher) and sister Holly (Gillian Zinser) to become increasingly concerned about her sanity. Rose begins seeing visions of people staring at her while smiling creepily, her house alarm is triggered for unknown reasons and her pet cat suddenly goes missing. Each incident gradually increases in its creepiness and severity, usually accompanied by some off-kilter camera work and jarring sound effects that help to make us viewers feel almost as off balance and crazy as Rose does.
After realising that her experiences bear a striking resemblance to those that Laura was describing prior to her death, Rose begins to do a bit of digging into Laura’s past to try and unearth the root of her problems. And it turns out that just a week before her death Laura witnessed one of her tutors killing himself with a claw hammer. And then, with the help of her friend Joel (Kyle Gallner), Rose discovers that Laura was the latest in a long line of people who had witnessed a suicide, only to go on and take their own life shortly after. There are some gruesome photos to be found in the police files, even some shocking CCTV footage, and it soon becomes very apparent that not only is Rose next, but her remaining time on Earth is likely to be anywhere between 4 days to a week.
The script for Smile has been adapted from writer/director Parker Finn’s short film Laura Hasn’t Slept and usually with short film adaptations the result is some watered-down, drawn-out story that struggles to expand upon its initial setup. I haven’t seen the short film but if this is a watered-down, weaker version of it, then I definitely need to seek it out right now as I really enjoyed the feature-length version.
The scares in Smile are nicely set up and, for the most part, are extremely effective. Admittedly, there is a bit of a midway slump in the terror and horror while Rose plays detective for a while – visiting the wife of a recent victim and a man who seems to have escaped death since receiving the ‘curse’ – but when it does shift focus back to trying to creep you out, it works really well, providing plenty of fuel for your nightmares. There are a fair few “BOO!” jump scares, which to me usually just feel lazy, but here amongst the rest of the story, following Rose’s journey and her descent towards madness, I was totally on board with it all. The ending is predictable, it borrows from countless other horror movies and you could quite easily imagine a sequel coming from it. But overall I really enjoyed how this was presented.
Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.