Smile review – sadistically effective supernatural horror

<span>Photograph: Walter Thomson/AP</span>
Photograph: Walter Thomson/AP

Psychiatric specialist Dr Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) has dedicated her life to caring for the most damaged members of society. But one case shakes her – a distressed young woman who claims to be pursued by a shape-shifting evil entity with “the worst smile I have ever seen in my life”. To Rose’s horror, the girl takes a piece of shattered crockery and carves an arcing crescent into her own throat. And she smiles – a deranged, flesh-stretching gash of a grin – while doing so. Soon Rose starts to see her own ghoulish smirking figures, and embarks on a race against time to understand the transferable curse which has latched on to her, a malevolent parasitic presence which feeds on trauma.

The premise to this sadistically effective horror is admittedly not an original one – there are thematic similarities with The Ring, It Follows and others. And there’s nothing especially novel about director Parker Finn’s approach, which favours Dutch angles and jump-scares galore. But the combination of a committed central performance from the increasingly gaunt and haunted Bacon, and a jarring, tortured score, makes for an enjoyably nasty brush with the smiling face of evil.