Plot: What’s it about?
There are folks, a lot of them actually, who simply love horror movies. A friend of mine from high school couldn’t (and still can’t) get enough of them. He showed me some movies that I’d never even heard of and the more horror you watch, the more desensitized you get. Or that’s the case with me, anyway. But a good horror movie really gets inside you and, well, messes with you. Such is the case with Smile – a film with a certain look about it (you connect the dots) and had me on the edge of my seat. Writer/Director Parker Finn has remade his own movie, Laura Hasn’t Slept from 2020 and turned it into this. I guess if it went awry, he couldn’t blame the source material, right? At any rate, what we’ve got is a semi-original premise, a few good jump scares and enough uneasiness to ruin more than just one night.
Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is a physician at a psychiatric facility. She tends to burn the midnight oil on more than one occasion, much to the chagrin of her boss (Kal Penn) to take it easy. Things get a bit more odd when Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey) is brought in claiming that a strange “smiling” entity is coming after her. Laura then abruptly kills herself in front of Rose and in the days that follow, Rose herself begins having strange hallucinations that mimic what Laura had. Rose begins looking frazzled to her fiancée (Jesse T. Usher), her own therapist (Robin Weigert) and even the detective investigating Laura’s death (Kyle Gallner). They believe her trauma from witnessing the suicide is the culprit, though with Joel’s (the detective) the two go down a rabbit hole and discover a not-so-pleasant way of getting rid of Rose’s problem.
Smile has a few things going for it that a lot of modern horror thrillers don’t. First, it’s a novel concept that’s not something we’ve seen time and again. Second, it really does address some of the prejudices that we as a society have against those with mental illness. To shun them off as “crazy” or “loonies”, we see how things change when the shoe is on the other foot (in this case, the physician who is now experiencing issues of her own). Lastly, it’s scary. I mean, really! Go up to someone you know and give them a nice, wide smile and see what their reaction is. I’m guessing that they might not talk to you for a day or so. Or maybe they will. Hell, I don’t know. The point being, this one works on a few levels and while there are better films out there (this one shares a lot with The Ring), give it a shot.
Video: How’s it look?
And…here we go again! Smile is the latest in a series of films that utilize the 2.00:1 aspect ratio. I use the word utilize not that I’m trying to wow anyone with my vocabulary, rather it helps create a more claustrophobic feel. And good horror movies use every weapon in their arsenal to create that sense of uneasiness and uncertainty. It works. Looking at the technical quality, I found nothing wrong with the transfer. I don’t hand out those perfect scores review arbitrarily, so let me say that every aspect of this film looks spot on. HDR offers additional contrast in the darker scenes (of which there are many), detail is razor sharp and flesh tones are picture perfect. Suffice it to say that with this one – it’s worth getting the 4K disc.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Not to be outdone, this 4K version sports a Dolby Atmos track , though if you opt for the Blu-ray, it’s there as well. Good on you, Paramount – not holding out the atmospheric track with the Blu-ray. All the boxes are checked with this one, creepy surround effects, height channels fully engaged, crisp and clean vocals and so forth. The movie itself is creepy enough that it already has the viewer on edge, but the audio really reels them in. Add to that, the score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer flows with the theme of the film. It’s a good-sounding track that did its job on me.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary — Director Parker Finn flies solo (get it?) with this one offering up what we’ve come to expect from any audio commentary. Details about the cast, the shoot and the etymology of the story are all present and accounted for.
- Laura Hasn’t Slept — The original short film that inspired the movie with introduction by director Parker Finn.
- Something’s Wrong with Rose: Making Smile — This chronicles the film’s earlier days with some details on the production, behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.
- Flies on the Wall: Inside the Score — In the “this isn’t false advertising” department, you’re literally a fly on the wall as we see the score crafted in some rather avant garde ways.
- Deleted Scenes — Nearly a dozen minutes of them though none really added too much to the film. All are available with optional commentary by director Parker Finn.
The Bottom Line
Smile is one that stayed with me long after the ending credits rolled. It’s just eerie enough that it’ll get under your skin if you let it. Paramount’s disc offers exceptional audio and video quality with a smattering of extras that get the job done.