“It’s smiling at me. But not a friendly smile. It’s the worst smile I’ve ever seen in my life.”Laura Weaver
Content warning: suicide, trauma
I am a sucker for minimalist, high concept horror and writer/director Parker Finn’s feature debut Smile may be the best example since 2014’s It Follows. After witnessing a patient’s suicide, hospital psychiatrist Rose becomes terrified that a supernatural presence is stalking her, leading her toward the same fate. Like It Follows, the method transmission serves an allegory, in this case for the way that trauma begets trauma from one person to another. Although there is some gore to be found, it is the simplicity of the rictus grins which plague Rose that make Smile so unnerving. These false visages serve as a metaphor for masking — the need for neurodivergents to wear a veil of normality in public — something that Rose finds herself increasingly unable to maintain. Returning to a theme of Finn’s previous short film Laura Hasn’t Slept, Rose’s sleep deprivation becomes a factor in the horror – it is writ large on Sosie Bacon’s face, drained of colour, but it also provides a legitimate reason for the common horror trope of nightmares bleeding into reality. Smile may do nothing groundbreaking, but Finn deftly weaves the mechanics of horror with the awkwardness of human interaction to craft something truly memorable.