Movie review: ‘Smile’ delves into the effects of human trauma in a horrifying way

Suzy Bacon stars in the movie “Smile”. Credit: Walter Thompson via TNS

Director Parker Finn has stunned horror movie fans everywhere with the release of his new movie, Smile.

The film climbed to the top of the box office charts in its opening weekend on September 30 and grossed over $137 million worldwide. It is advisable to appreciate the viewer, as some of the content may be interesting to those who are traumatized.

This film presents itself in a similar fashion to popular horror films before it, including “It Follows” and “The Babdook,” using literary devices to deliver a central message. These devices involve raising the corners of the mouth as a metaphor to leave the audience wondering what really lies beneath the smile.

The unnamed supernatural entity of the movie gains strength from absorbing the shocks of its victims, exploiting vulnerable people who have faced life-altering tragedies. Oftentimes, a smile is used to warn of impending death and acts as a mask to ward off pain.

The hero, Dr. Rose Cotter (Susie Bacon), works as a therapist in the hospital’s emergency ward. The opening scene depicts her patient arriving at the hospital visibly surprised and unable to speak. The young woman talks about her frightening experience that brought her to the brink of hysteria. She reveals that she is being followed by a supernatural entity masquerading in people’s bodies, both in the realms of the living and the dead.

The entity imposes a chilling smile on the faces of its ship, serving as a countdown to the victims’ impending death. Through a horrific chain of events, the entity eventually bonds with Cotter, highlighting pent-up family trauma as Cotter searches for a way to expel this possession.

Bacon’s portrayal of Cotter commands praise, as her complex character suffers from unearthed trauma. Prior to her doom, Kotter was a highly respected physician in her field, the recipient of a plethora of awards and residing in a stunning home with her fiancĂ© and their cat.

Her quintessential image of a consummate woman living a comfortable life crumbles with entity controlling her professional and personal life, and the battle between rationality and paranormal activity is not easy to portray, especially through the eyes of a doctor. However, Bacon provides an accurate performance of a woman living with trauma, shown in detail, such as excessive nail biting and sudden emotional outbursts.
An important factor in storytelling was the use of the wardrobe, which basically explained the personalities of each character. For example, in Chapter One, Cotter is basically wearing pressed clothes, her hair brushed into a sleek, low bun. As the plot unfolds, and a ghost infiltrates her life, her wardrobe undergoes a dramatic transformation as she wears ever more disorganized ensembles. She wears tightly knitted sweaters and jackets – a testament to her hopes of finding answers to her unexplainable experiences.

Not only does this act as a character shift, but it also highlights the contradictions in her relationships with the other characters. For example, her older sister, Holly (Gillian Zinser), has been cast in different shades of pink and white in order to emphasize her seemingly perfect life, despite the fact that the sisters share the same childhood traumas. Cotter’s fiancĂ©, Trevor, often appears in formal tuxedos, highlighting the lack of closeness and separation that has plagued the couple’s relationship. An interest in an iconic wardrobe is a testament to a dedication to storytelling.

In addition to the clothes, composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s unsettling note has the ability to make the audience glance over his shoulder. The soundtrack is largely comprised of deep and ominous tracks, often reminiscent of human snarls and groans.

The gruesome theme breaks its pattern when the Chordettes’ popular song, “Lollipop,” is chosen to roll out the credits. Similar to the smile metaphor, including a song with traditionally positive connotations on the recording, it causes the audience to question their own sense of safety. Together, these disturbing tones effectively create a frightening and bone frightening atmosphere that horror movie fans can appreciate.

The central message of “Smile” is that the effects of trauma can be felt in all aspects of life, even without realizing it. Although the film does not offer solutions to dealing with trauma, it highlights the importance of addressing these experiences. The film’s ambiguous metaphors make for a complex conversation after film as the audience wonders if it’s really possible to escape the grip of the trauma.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

“Smile” is now available in theaters.

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