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SMILE Will Leave You Grinning in Fear

After witnessing a traumatic patient death, a therapist begins to experience unexplained horrors, the same horrors that patient claimed to have seen. Written and directed by Parker Finn, Smile is a wicked film full of nonstop frights while speaking to the impact of trauma and mental health.

Rose (Sosie Bacon) is a dedicated therapist, working at an in-patient facility. Having dealt with the pain of her mother’s declining mental health as a child, she’s made a career of helping others.

A new patient named Laura arrives who, by all accounts, seems to be having a fully manic episode. She swears she’s not insane and that something is following her, disguising itself as other people and just smiling at her menacingly. Rose tries to make sense of it all, but before long, Laura brutally kills herself.

In the aftermath, Rose is shaken, confiding in her fiance Trevor (Jessie T. Usher). But when she notices strangers smiling at her, with visions of her deceased mother and Laura tormenting her, she slips into the same seemingly-manic state as her former patient. With no one believing her, she turns to an old friend (Kyle Gallner) to help make sense of whatever has latched itself onto her.

Based on Finn’s 2020 short film titled Laura Hasn’t Slept, Smile is a frightening story that lands effective jump scares and the build-up of dread that comes with the unknown. The film plays with your mind as a viewer, just as much as the entity plays with Rose.

While some may not be a fan of jump scares, they can certainly feel cheap, Finn creates them not just to get a reaction. There’s a purpose of making you feel just as uneasy as Rose feels. While also being utterly terrifying when they happen.

The film also has a deeper meaning. Overall, it’s an allegory for trauma. How facing that trauma can heal for some, though that’s not promised. It’s somewhat subtle, as it doesn’t try to shoehorn in a strong message. It lets the horror lead the narrative and allows you, as the viewer, to do what you will with the underlying theme.

I think Smile gets it right in how it balances all the pieces, never letting filler or exposition get in the way of the tension it’s aiming to build. Bacon gives a fabulous and empathetic performance which has you rooting for her. With some wonderful practical effects, including a terrifying end reveal, this film is definitely a must-see for a good October scare.


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