“Smile” is ready to give you the willies.
The new original horror film, from first-time writer/director Parker Finn, is here just in time for spooky season and it doesn’t disappoint – this thing is scary, disturbing and, yes, downright haunting. It follows Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), whose patient kills herself in front of Rose while wearing a ghastly smile on her face. This sends Rose on a quest to discover the truth behind the young woman’s suicide, partnering with a local cop (and former love interest) named Joel (Kyle Gallner). Together, they uncover a series of similar slayings that are all connected by a single thing: that creepy smile.
But how does this showdown between good and unknowable evil ultimately resolve itself?
Well, read on to find out!
Major spoilers follow for “Smile.” If you haven’t watched the movie yet, turn back down. Come back after you’ve watched, though! We’ll still be here!
What’s the deal with the smile?
“Smile” is, mercifully, free of cluttered backstory and cumbersome mythology; the kind of thing that usually makes more straightforward horror movies stumble. Basically this is what we know: the smile is an indication that you have been taken over by some demonic entity. It can appear in your life as someone you know or a complete stranger (shades of “It Follows”). But once it infects you, you’re cursed, more or less. You have between four days and a week, before you’re totally consumed and will end up killing yourself. You have to do it in front of somebody else, so that the curse (and the accompanying demon) can be passed along to some other unlucky son-of-a-gun.
Is there any way to break the curse?
There is! Along the course of their investigation, Rose and Joel discover a loophole: there was a man who witnessed one of these smile suicides and lived to tell the tale. How did he do it? He murdered someone else. Sure, he might be rotting away in a prison sale for the rest of his life. But at least he has a rest of his life.
How does Rose attempt to free herself?
She thinks about how to free herself, including killing one of her more obnoxious patients. But she realizes that the curse will just continue to spread to whoever watches her murder him. In order to be alone she returns to the house where she grew up, now abandoned and falling apart. (Earlier in the movie, her sister suggests that they sell the house, to at least make something.) It’s here that Rose confronts her actual demons – that she allowed her mother to die of an overdose while Rose did nothing to help. She images the demon appearing and lighting it on fire, but afterwards she realizes that this is a hallucination. She has done nothing to stop the curse. Rose returns to the house, and the demon reveals itself in all of its terrible forms (it has a giant mouth that opens up like something from “Spirited Away”). The demon crawls inside her mouth, fully possessing her. Joel finally gets to the house, only to watch her pouring gasoline on herself and lighting herself on fire. And she’s got a big grin on her face while she does it, which means that she has passed the evil along to Joel.
Yes she does. In a blaze of glory, no less. And worse of all, she infects one of the people she cares most about while doing it.
What does writer/director Parker Finn have to say?
We asked Finn to give us his reading of the ending. Here’s what he had to say: “The movie is an exploration of so many themes and motifs and I think when it comes to trauma or some of the stuff that we carry around inside of us, you can confront it, but it doesn’t mean it goes away. And I wanted to follow it to its worst logical conclusion. Because I think too many movies are tied up with a neat bow. And I think that doesn’t match life. Sometimes good doesn’t win. Sometimes evil wins, evil exists out in the world. And I wanted to create an ending that had an emotional catharsis. And yet, evil persists.” Yes it does persist!
What about star Sosie Bacon?
We also asked Bacon for her take on the ending. “It’s so funny because I started to think about answering these questions and I honestly haven’t given it much thought because I always was just trying to be like, What is Rose thinking about everything?” Bacon said. “And then as soon as we finished it, I was like, I don’t want to think about it. I never want to think about it again. I think it’s more of what you make of it. I’m interested to see what people make of it because I don’t have as much of an opinion. But what it was like shooting it was dark and scary and cold and fucking creepy.”
Will there be a “Smile” sequel?
Just because Rose is dead doesn’t mean that there can’t be a sequel. Not only is there Joel’s fate that we’ve got to worry about, but any good horror movie worth its salt inspires at least one spin-off or follow-up. (“X” got its own sequel in the same year, with another film on the way.) Well, how far along is Finn on the path to another “Smile?” We asked him. “I’m just now crossing the finish line after this marathon of making this film,” Finn said. “Of course I think there could be a lot of fun still to be had with ‘Smile,’ but we’ll just have to wait and see.” Sounds like there could be more installments on the horizon.
“Smile” is in theaters now.
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