Smile (Horror, Thriller) [Based on Short Film] (2022)
Director: Parker Finn
Writer: Parker Finn (Based on Short Film by)
Stars: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey
After witnessing a harrowing and bewildering suicide, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is haunted by disturbing imagery she cannot explain.
In his feature film debut, Parker Finn depicts a supernatural horror thriller tricking the mind of its main character. It is an adaptation of his own short story called ‘’Laura Hasn’t Slept’’ and was scheduled for release on the Paramount+ streaming service before opting for a theatrical release exclusively. The film is produced by Paramount Players and Temple Hill Entertainment while being distributed by Paramount Pictures.
On a routine day as a psychiatrist working in a ward, Dr. Rose Cotter has an appointment with Lara Weaver (Caitlin Stasey), seemingly haunted by hallucinations that she claims pursue her. After only a couple of questions, the patient completely freaks out, leading Dr. Cotter to use the intercom for assistance; as she turns around looking for the patient, Lara appears right behind her with a wide grin on her face and commits suicide, leading to Dr. Cotter seeing the same haunting hallucinations her patient did.
Seemingly inspired by typical 21st-century horror flicks, the intro sequence ‘’Smile’’ allows an early onset of creeping tension. As a viewer, you know something is on the way, despite the calm and controlled setting. Pressure reaches a boiling point as the audience is introduced to Stasey’s Lara; not only is she the poster girl, but she also features heavily in the trailer. Perhaps this is where the elaborate marketing of ‘’Smile’’ subtracts quality from the final product. Nevertheless, Lara is psychotic and seemingly has hallucinations in a segment that doesn’t take long to conclude. We’re left with some surprise as the poster child apparently ends her life, and for the rest of the film, we follow Sosie Bacon’s Rose Cotter, who’s now tormented by the same haunting entity Lara saw.
What it does manage is to retain a fair narrative progression, and the plot is easy to follow along with, too easy. If anything, it’s rarely distinctive enough. The frustratingly typical shock factor presented honestly does little to impress. Perhaps, the most hurtful is what’s meant to be creepy ends up comical, luckily not in the same way as 2020’s ‘ Fantasy Island’’ but bad enough to de-claw the feature as a whole. Much of the imagery within, such as the jump scares, are direct call-backs from ‘’The Ring’’, ‘’The Blair Witch Project’’, and ‘’Insidious’’ among others, although in more of a thriller approach.
Mentioning the specific genre, it continues spiralling down into a web of mysteries as Cotter discovers she’s simply one in a line of past victims. As previously said, it’s way too easy to follow, and narrative elements are heavily featured, creating a habit of over-explaining the fairly straightforward script. If there’s one thing I’d have to commend, it’d be Sosie Bacon and her increasingly frantic behaviour as her friends and family, apart from ex-fiancée Joel, struggle to believe her neurotic fantasies. ‘’Smile’’ isn’t the worst; it’s just over-marketed, over-told and much more obvious than it likes to think.
You’ll certainly be laughing a lot, but for the wrong reasons.