Parker Finn swings for the fences in his bone chilling directorial debut Smile. Using the pillars forged by its spiritual predecessors it forges its own way into Horror oblivion.
Written by Alex Gilston / September 30, 2022
Rose Cotter, a mental health doctor, experiences a traumatic event with one of her new patients. From that point forward she starts seeing and hearing things she can’t explain, and when she digs deeper she unearths a worrying chain of deaths that could lead to her own. If you’re familiar with horror classics such as Candyman or It Follows you’ll find that Smile has an identical premise. A Chain-Mail entity that passes from human to human for a very specific reason, and in Smile trauma is on the menu. Even though these comparisons can be made it doesn’t take away the watchability of Smile, and it has a killer mystery that will keep you guessing right up until the final shot.
Smile is spine chilling on the horror scale. There’s a constant heightened tension from the moment the big event kicks everything into motion. Charlie Sarroff’s disorientating cinematography underlined by Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s purposefully screechy score are integral in that upkeep. Off the back of the success of franchises like Paranormal Activity and Insidious, a lot of modern horror films tend to rely on cheap jump scares to keep the audience’s attention. Although Smile does fall foul to that a handful of times, a glass is dropped on two occasions in the most obnoxiously jumpy way possible, most of the pinpointed scares feel earnt and are executed well through Finn’s direction and a natural build up.
Smile doesn’t shy away from its subject matter and it’s clear from the off that it wants to portray a message about trauma and how it affects people on a life-long scale. But Smile needs to remind you of this at almost every turn of the film, where it would have been okay to let go of the hand guiding us through. On top of that, the onslaught of 18 rated violence was unnecessary at points throughout the runtime. It would have been just as effective with a 15 rating and a few drawbacks.
On the surface Smile is properly creepy. Horror that can make the mundane or even nice into something a lot more sinister are always on to a winner on some level. Its heavy hand thematically is what ultimately lets it down. A dash of subtlety in the overly vivid violence might not have gone amiss.