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Smile centers around a therapist named Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) who, after meeting with one of her many ill patients, experiences a traumatic and violent occurrence after a session with a PHD student (Caitlin Statsey) who claims to see “something” – not a person – smiling at her in an evil way. The story gradually goes deeper into the psyche of both the patients and doctor in this twisted tale.
I went into this knowing very little about the film as I sometimes appreciate discovering plots as I watch. I have to admit that once I realized that this was yet another movie about mentally ill patients, it immediately made me roll my eyes. First of all, most of these movies try to scare us with these multiple personality disorders and paranoid patients who see things. It would make anyone want to feel disturbed and uneasy, I get it – but it’s so overdone and I’m over the stigma quite frankly. Luckily, this movie played the mental illness card well so to speak. The audience I was with also reacted to one scene with appropriate disgust when Dr. Rose’s fiancé Trevor (played by the very fine, Jessie T. Usher) called out Rose’s mentally ill genes with contempt. That was heartwarming moment to know folx were on the same page as I was. It was then that I realized the viewers like the protagonist and then it starts getting better, and creepier.
As Rose does more research she learns that this thing that has been spooking her was brought on by her traumatic session with the PhD student. It seems this thing thrives on fear, trauma and gets bigger and scarier the more it senses fear. Not only that, it gets stronger as people take their own lives and particularly when there is a witness. At one point the creature reminded me of a classic del Toro fantasy. The direction and writing by Parker Finn was fantastic. There were several chair jumping scenes, hands-over-eyes moments for me and others. Namely Rose’s nephew’s birthday party… now those poor kids are gonna need lots of therapy!
One of my favorite scenes was when Rose’s psychiatrist, Dr. Northcott (Robin Weigert) pays her a visit only for Rose to realize this isn’t who she thinks it is. And then it happens, the creepiest evil smile you’ve every seen. No thanks! Not today Satan – amirite? This ‘thing’ seems to get passed through each person who eventually kill themselves, passing it on and on.
It was a nice surprise for me (since I’m not smart like you reading this now) to know that Kal Penn is in this and plays Rose’s boss, Dr. Desai. A few folx in audience didn’t seem to know either and reacted to seeing him on screen. The script was really well written, even to the point where the audience empathized with Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Joel (Kyle Gallner) who is a cop! Poor bloke seemed to really care about Rose and went to great lengths to help her figure out what is plaguing her mind.
No one is safe in Smile – animals or people. This movie does what horror movies should do – scare the smile off of your face. Go see it before Smile 2 comes out!
IN THEATRES AND DOLBY CINEMA EVERYWHERE FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30