There’s something about a smile in the right context that can scare the hell out of you. Just ask Chucky fans. It’s the twist, the idea that something so outwardly benevolent could actually be harmful, that makes us fear it in everything from creepy clowns to strangers doing it out of context. In the right light, at the right time, a smile can be just about the scariest thing you’ll ever see.
Smile, the feature film debut from writer/director Parker Finn (Laura Hasn’t Slept) hopes to confront that creepy notion of the frightening smile head-on, with a tale of a woman who can’t stop seeing smiles everywhere she goes. The new film follows Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon, Mare of Easttown), who has an appointment with a patient who claims to be seeing something, somewhere, that won’t stop smiling at her. When that patient dies violently, Rose tries to cope with the brutality of what she saw, but finds that something beyond the death is haunting her. She begins to see smiles everywhere she goes, from patients at her hospital to her own therapist who’s supposed to be helping her through the post-traumatic stress of it all.
In the trailer below, you can get a peek at what all this looks like, as Rose tries to navigate a world where people smiling at her is a very, very bad sign. It plays like It Follows with a grin on its face, and closes things out with one heck of an effective little subversive jump scare.
Smile definitely won’t be the first film to utilize creepy grins for major scares. It’s one of the reasons Pennywise the Dancing Clown is so effective in the IT films, one of the reasons we find the Joker so creepy, and a major scare point in everything from the final sequence of Hereditary to Truth or Dare. Taking something that’s universally understood to mean something good and tilting it just so works very well, and it’ll be really interesting to see how Smile makes a meal out of that concept, giving us supernatural horror with a big grin on its face.