‘Smile’ masterfully preys on audience paranoia and doubts


Bridan Braun, Reporter

“Smile,” one of the year’s most anticipated horror films, hit theaters recently, and it was just as terrifying as its trailer made it out to be.

Hospital psychologist Dr. Rose Cotter is visiting with a patient who describes a figure following her around and smiling at her. Cotter tries to reason with the girl, but she suddenly and violently commits suicide.

Over the course of the next few days, Dr. Cotter has increasingly nightmarish encounters with the entity her patient had described to her. It hides in the dark corners of her house, wears the faces of her friends and family and morphs into various frightening figures, all while wearing an eerie smile on its face.

“Smile” was deeply disturbing. It did not depend on cheap jump scares alone; there was a psychological component throughout the film that had you questioning right alongside Dr. Cotter whether you could trust anything you saw.

There were multiple instances where members of the audience in the theater I attended were visibly spooked, jumping from their seats and even letting out a few screams. At one point, several people got up to leave. I have not experienced this level of fear in a movie theater in a long time.

Although I enjoyed “Smile,” I cannot deny the striking similarities it shares with the 2014 psychological horror film “It Follows.”

As many users on Twitter have pointed out, both films have relatively the same premise, but the entity in “It Follows” is transmitted through sex rather than through death.

“It Follows” is a metaphor for the shame surrounding sex, and specifically losing your virginity, while “Smile” seems to be a metaphor for the cyclical quality of trauma.

“Smile” has a more traditional horror feel, relying on a few popular horror tropes to help carry the film, but “It Follows” brought something new to the table. It was about a topic we do not often see portrayed in the media: the shame our society places on sex.

Both films have something to say about pressing social issues, but “It Follows” does a much better job at looking at the whole picture. It evaluates the stigma surrounding sex, the relationships we form through sex, as well as how relationships change because of sex.

“Smile,” however, fails to tackle the issue of mental health introduced in the beginning.

It is impossible to say whether the similarities between the two films are intentional or unintentional on the part of “Smile” writer and director, Parker Finn. However, it is clear that Finn took inspiration from “It Follows.”