2022 was something of a bumper year for horror films. From Jordan Peele’s jaw-dropping Nope to the Ti West double-feature of X and Pearl. Throw in the likes of Bones And All and the latest in the Scream franchise and it seems horror is well and truly back in the mainstream, and that’s before you even touch upon some of the great streaming horrors that emerged in 2022.
Sitting very much in the mainstream pile is Smile, a film whose premise alone is enough to get you timidly peering at the poster wondering; are those eyes and that grin following me?!
Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is a therapist working in an emergency psychiatric ward when a patient (Caitlin Stasey) violently kills herself in front of Rose. Traumatised by the event, Rose begins to see things and soon discovers, despite her professional instincts telling her otherwise, she might be being pursued by an evil entity anxious to inflict trauma and eventual suicide on its victims.
Very much riffing on the likes of The Ring – with its, if you see this you will die in a specific timeframe – and It Follows – in the way a curse can be passed from one victim to the next – Smile certainly knows how to conjure some wonderful tension and atmosphere. From the moment her patient gives her the smile to make you cower it dials it right back, focussing on the mental impact of trauma before switching tact to something all the more horror focussed.
Writer director Parker Finn gives an assured debut feature ratcheting up tension before conjuring some truly chilling moments. Yes, some of the jump scares feel forced – dear filmmakers, have confidence you’re going to make us jump without the loud accompanying music – but where it really works is creating that sense of creeping dread. The feeling that in every dark corner and every face lurks something more terrifying than you can imagine.
It doesn’t break with convention in the way something like Barbarian did this year but Smile certainly shows that horror is in a healthy vein of form.
SMILE is available to Download & Keep on December 14 and on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, and DVD December 26.