“Smile” Might Launch Another Thriller Franchise

Synopsis: After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can't explain. Rose must confront her troubling past to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.
Director: Parker Pinn
Stars: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey

It's that time of year when we start to see horror/thriller movies . . . Halloween season! The Saw and Paranormal Activity series of films dominated the industry for years. And, of course, Michael Myers terrorized Haddonfield in Halloween.

Every year, like clockwork, the studios try to bring the fright, and this year one of those scary offerings is a movie called Smile. The film needs to be discussed in two ways: the movie itself and the marketing.

The film stars Sosie Bacon, daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick; I guess she kills at ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.’ Sosie plays Dr. Rose Cotter, a therapist dealing with patients with mental health issues. While her sister and brother-in-law wish she were more focused on profiting from her medical accomplishments, Rose is more concentrated on the good she is doing. Rose has a comfortable life; she is engaged to her fiancé Trevor (Jessie T. Usher), and life is good. She’s a bit of a workaholic, but that’s the life she has committed to.

One day a new patient, Laura (Caitlin Stasey), tells Rose that she has been experiencing something unique. She describes an ‘entity’ with a sadistic smile on its face that has been following her. When Rose dismisses these notions, Laura takes her life right before Rose.

This starts a chain of events. Does Rose imagine this? — she is overworked and exhausted. An entity with a smile? —  this can’t make any sense. Or can it?

The film is like a fantastic song that has been remixed with other songs; it has elements of The Ring, It Follows, and Final Destination, to name a few. And while those films have influenced this one, it still manages to carve out its own niche.

Parker Finn developed the film based on his short movie Laura Hasn’t Slept, and he has blown me away. There is so much to enjoy in this film. The jump scares are on point. Sometimes there is a little misdirection, and sometimes it’s not. Finn has taken something as simple as opening a can of cat food and made it intense.

The pacing of this film is also great. I truly love how patiently the story develops. Finn doesn’t rush anything in this film.

Many things about this film work, the direction, how it was shot, and the score but none of that matters if Bacon doesn’t deliver, and she certainly does – she is great. I suspect the conversation will switch from ‘Are you Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick’s daughter?’ to ‘Are you Sosie Bacon’s parents?’ This isn’t her first role, but it’s the first one I am familiar with and the one that made me take notice.

We often hear ‘Is it scary?’ or ‘Nothing scares me’ etc. Let’s take a step back from that and appreciate the great filmmaking. Will it scare some people? Maybe, but it will definitely impress.

The marketing of this film is nothing short of brilliant. Usually, a movie comes out, we see a trailer, and maybe an actor makes the talk show circuit, but that’s about it. Not this time. This past week, at Major League Baseball games, if you looked behind home plate, you would see someone with an eerie smile, sometimes wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Smile’ on it. Actors paid to attend baseball games to generate interest in a movie. This is amazing out-of-the-box thinking to promote a film.

Smile works for me. I thought it was a great movie and one that could kickstart a new October franchise.

Grade: B+