How scary can a smile really be?

Really damn scary, it turns out.

The new horror/thriller film Smile, the debut from director Parker Finn, came out this weekend and it is one of the most disturbing and scary horror films in quite a while.

Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) worked at an emergency psychiatric hospital dealing with patients suffering from all sorts of trauma. When a new patient arrived who had recently witnessed her professor killing himself, she started seeing things she could not explain. When Rose responded with the same doubt from her story, something seemed to change and she slit her throat in front of her.

The woman had told Rose that something mysterious was tormenting her and that it took the form of smiling people, a smile that was horrifying. After the patient’s death, Rose began experiencing the same kind of symptoms.

This movie is owned by Sosie Bacon. She absolutely killed it as Rose Cotter. She created a character dealing with so much trauma, not only from the potential supernatural entity, but also from none of the people in her life believing her story and a lingering childhood event that has colored the rest of her life since. Bacon ruled this character and provided the audience with a character to root for while also being someone who you were never sure if she was actually experiencing what she was or if it were all in her head.

Besides Bacon, the star of this movie was Parker Finn. He developed so many mannerisms during the movie to keep the audience off-balance or unnerved. He was constantly using transition shots, everything from God’s Eye to inverted shots to Dutch angle, designed to create a mood in the crowd and to echo the uncertainty that the characters are feeling.

The sound design is also a sensational piece used to build a sinister feel. There was a totally disturbing use of the score several times throughout the movie that keep me on the edge of my seat.

The film does use a bunch of jump scares, but many of them are excellently constructed and fall into places where you would not expect them to be. I was caught off guard by several of them as the movie progressed, which tells me that the jump scares were effective. Were there too many of them used? Probably, but you can’t deny that Finn tried to do something creative with them instead of just throwing them into the obvious places.

I found the experience of Smile to be very unsettling and scary in many parts of the film. There was a lot to deal with here and, while the last section of the movie may not have been as awesome as the first part, the movie certainly succeeded in creating the mood and tone that it intended to create. The imagery of the smile as a signal for the evil was extremely creepy and very effective. This is a great way to start off the Halloween season.

4 stars

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