Parker Finn’s Smile is essentially The Ring if that distorted VHS tape were replaced with a distorted facial expression. As these jump scare heavy horror pics go, this one usually hits the right notes (including with its sound design).
Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is a psychologist working at a busy mental ward. She makes the acquaintance of Laura (Caitlin Stasey), who witnessed her professor commit suicide. Ever since then, she’s been traumatized by an unseen being. Laura is a basket case until… she’s not and a creepy grin emerges. Those who’ve witnessed the trailer know that bloodshed follows.
What also follows (it follows… so to speak) is an evil spirit possibly latching onto the doctor and no one believing her. This includes her fiancee (Jessie T. Usher), an ex boyfriend who’s a cop (Kyle Gallner), and her sister (Gillian Zinser). Their skepticism is understandable as a family tragedy when Rose was 10 years old might explain her bizarre behavior.
Besides the mentions of It Follows and The Ring, Finn’s debut (he wrote it too) borrows plenty from earlier genre pieces. While originality isn’t its strong suit, there are a few legitimately hair raising instances. There’s one session with Rose’s therapist that’s far scarier than the bill.
Despite a few unnecessary shots that seem inspired by Inception, Finn seems like a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Bacon (daughter of Kevin and Kyra Sedgwick) is given a few good moments of genuinely convincing terror. This is genre work executed well as these characters smile though their arteries are bursting.
*** (out of four)