Sosie Bacon Shines in Scary Horror Film
Sosie Bacon gives an emotional and gut-wrenching performance as a woman haunted by an evil entity. Smile has legitimate scares that pack a wallop. If only the film weren’t so damn long. The terror washes back and forth like waves because of slow pacing. A long second act has lulls that tried my patience. The film would have been more impactful at ninety-minutes instead of two hours. Bacon’s mental and physical spiral holds the narrative together. Everyone believes she’s having a psychotic breakdown. You feel her distress as a mortal threat looms.
Dr. Rose Cotter (Bacon) works in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. She’s a therapist for mentally ill patients. Rose suffers lingering PTSD from watching her mother’s suicide as a girl. It’s made her empathetic to a fault. Rose’s world collapses after meeting Laura (Caitlin Stasey). She’s admitted to the hospital days after witnessing her teacher’s suicide. A frantic Laura tells Rose that a supernatural force stalks her. It can look like anyone from the present and past. They wear a sinister smile before committing horrific violence.
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Rose is traumatized after a bloody incident with Laura. She also starts seeing smiling visions. Her mother’s death resurfaces. Rose’s shocking behavior at her nephew’s birthday party causes tremendous concern. Her fiancé (Jessie T. Usher) and psychiatrist (Robin Weigert) want an intervention. Rose’s boss (Kal Penn) forces a leave of absence from work. Terrified and alone, she turns to an ex-boyfriend for help. Joel (Kyle Gallner), a police detective, helps her uncover a long pattern of bizarre suicides. The victim always smiles before killing themselves. Rose must confront a demonic parasite that feeds on trauma.
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Premise of Smile
The film’s opening credits are laughable. It reinforced my serious doubts about Smile’s premise. The giggles turn to gasps after Rose’s brutal and grisly encounter with Laura. She realizes that whatever afflicted Laura has somehow passed unto her. Rose devolves as the entity torments every facet of her life. She begins to question what’s real or imagined. The birthday scene changes her calculus for the worst. Her life is in danger. She has to find out what’s happening before suffering a suicidal fate.
Smile stands on Bacon’s shoulders. Rose goes through an agonizing experience and becomes more unhinged with each awful occurrence. The camera locks on her face and documents the downfall. Bacon does a fantastic job of emoting fear and helplessness. Her psychological state tatters when branded a kook. She ends up in the same boat as her patients; seeing malevolence when no one else can. Rose is abandoned when she needs dire help.
Writer/director Parker Finn (Laura Hasn’t Slept, The Hidebehind) hits and misses with his approach. He uses Bacon to establish palpable tension. We feel her intense fear when alone. Spooky noises and dark rooms deliver big scares. This changes when Finn goes full-blown horror with a climactic onslaught of macabre creature effects. This payoff may work for others, but I found it to be a genre standard and not particularly interesting.
Smile achieves the most important goal. It’s scary and engrossing during the best scenes. Finn could have trimmed the ignorable excess. There are swaths of Smile that add nothing but boredom. Thankfully, Bacon’s acting keeps you rooting for Rose. She’s dynamite here and elevates the film.
Smile is a production of Temple Hill Entertainment and Paramount Players. It will have a theatrical release on September 30 from Paramount Pictures.