The lingering monster that is trauma: 'Smile' review

Kristofer Purnell - Philstar.com
The lingering monster that is trauma: 'Smile' review
A scene from "Smile"
Paramount Pictures

Trigger warning: suicide, trauma

MANILA, Philippines — Parker Finn's feature film debut "Smile" bears the familiar tropes of modern horror, from jumps cares to intelligent themes, making it a more entertaining watch than most.

"Smile" focuses on Sosie Bacon's Dr. Rose Cotter who begins to experience unexplainable terrors after an incident with a patient who has a similar experience because of "a thing that pretends to be a person" with a haunting smile.

The incident and the occurrences also bring up unresolved traumas in Cotter's past, particularly involving her mother who died from drug overdose.

Trauma plays a big part in how the mysterious entity plagues its victims, and while it is not a particularly fresh take, "Smile" does dare to touch on themes that in the hands of amatuer filmmakers would be ridiculed.

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The topic of mental health, which Bacon's character specializes in helping, is brought up many times in the film. It treads the fine line between being the reason for Cotter's experiences rather than the entity.

As a result, it opens the door to discussions about whether people suffering from mental illness or those who have not dealt with their trauma should consider giving their trauma serious attention.

From an artistic side, Bacon — daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick — does well as a lead in a horror movie, expressing both intelligence and vulnerability in how she handles her situations.

The 2014 film "It Follows" comes to mind when drawing similarities, but where that film is technically and smartly superior, "Smile" is a more crowd-pleaser and popcorn-friendly flick.

By no means does it deserve to be flushed with other trying hard horror movies. In fact, "Smile" does better than most, although people may never look at smiles the same way again.

"Smile" is now screening in Philippine cinemas.

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