Smile SPOILER FREE Review: Grin & Bear It

by Eve Andrews
smile review

Spooky movie season is officially here, and we’re getting off to a strong start with the frantically freaky Smile.

The debut feature film by up-and-coming Director, Parker Finn, Smile tells the traumatic tale of a psychiatrist named Dr Rose Cotter. After witnessing a brutal suicide in her own practice room, Rose starts experiencing disturbing symptoms similar to those described by her late patient. As time goes on, they become increasingly more intense, leading Rose through a line of intrigue as she tries to get to the bottom of what was really going on in the head of her dead patient, And it’s far more sinister than she ever thought possible. Nearly two hours’ worth of mind-bending twists and turns, Smile certainly succeeds in keeping you on your toes.

While one or two graphic scenes of death, gore and body horror are sparingly present, the primary appeal of Smile is its intangible head games. There are several occasions in which it successfully misleads the viewer before hitting them with a sudden curveball that absolutely throws you out of your seat. It plays on tension very well, with a polarising soundtrack of ramped-up volume on basic day-to-day sounds, surrounded by silences that carry for just a little too long to be considered comfortable. While there are a few low-hanging jumpscares, it likewise refrains from multiple opportunities to take advantage of an easy shock, leaving you on the edge of your seat, wondering when the next adrenaline-pumping jump will come for you.

The cinematography was also a stand-out feature, not only when it came to ramping up the tension levels but also with accentuating the eerily uncomfortable atmosphere. There were clever moments in which the use of camera angles alone actually made me feel nauseous, with its use of long tracking shots and unnaturally skewed standpoints capturing the dizzying perspectives of characters in a craze.

Of course, all of this would amount to nought if it weren’t for the excellent cast of actors who clearly took full advantage of the talented team they were working with. While all did an incredible job, the stand-out performance was undoubtedly that of Sosie Bacon as Dr Rose Cotter. Presented with an especially challenging role, her acting absolutely carried this movie. An abundance of screaming and crying is to be expected in the average horror film, and such makes it easy to become desensitised. However, in Bacon’s portrayal, every moment of anguish was painfully believable, giving a performance that was extremely psychologically stressful to watch.

All in all, Smile was a great way to kick off the oncoming season of Halloween horror flicks. Not only is it heart-stoppingly spooky, but it also delves into some tough-to-swallow messages regarding grief and familial trauma. However, I will say that I found some aspects of the clinical mental health exploration unsettling. As entertaining as it likely is for many, there are times when it presents as one more sensationalised depiction, turning psychiatric care into yet another fear-fueled circus – as if there weren’t enough of those on the pile already.

But, if you’re able to look past this and acknowledge it for what it is, Smile is, in its essence, a good horror flick. It showcases creativity by drawing visual and conceptual inspiration from multiple genres and has an excellent flair for tension-building via its remarkable ability to build and mislead. 

Can confirm I had sweaty palms on multiple occasions. Is Smile on YOUR watchlist this Halloween? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comment section below!

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