Directed by Parker Finn, ‘Smile‘ is a psychological horror film that follows Dr. Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist. In one of her sessions, a patient starts acting weirdly and kills herself while smiling at her. Traumatized by this, the counselor begins hallucinating, and everywhere she goes, she sees people smiling at her in the same creepy way. Soon, Rose realizes that other people have had similar experiences and killed themselves. So, she sets out to find the thread that connects them all to save herself.
‘Smile’ is an intriguing film in the genre as it leverages classic age-old tropes around an innovative premise. It is packed with jump scares, strange occurrences, and smiles that give you the chills. Furthermore, the story builds around mental health, trauma, and grief, humanizing the characters and the narrative. If such themes fascinate you, we have a list of exciting recommendations. You can watch most of these movies like ‘Smile’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
8. Matriarch (2022)
‘Matriarch‘ is a horror film that combines supernatural and psychological horror genres. Directed by Ben Steiner, it follows Laura, a lonely woman who overdoses and almost dies. Later, she returns to her village to reconnect with her mother, Celia, and discovers something dark and sinister. ‘Matriarch’ and ‘Smile’ have significant similarities; both explore themes like trauma, mother-daughter relationships, and grief.
Laura and Rose seem to have a problem with their respective mothers. It becomes a crucial part of how their psyche is shaped over the years and how even after growing up, the pain, grief, and fear are buried deep in them. These layers elevate the story and instill a sense of curiosity within the audience.
7. Mother! (2017)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky, ‘Mother!’ is a psychological horror film that centers on Mother (Jennifer Lawrence). She and Him (Javier Bardem) live together in a rustic house in the countryside. When a few guests arrive at the property, Mother gets an unsettling feeling about them, and things turn dark. ‘Mother!’ and ‘Smile’ are metaphorical stories wherein the core premise carries a deeper meaning.
‘Smile’ gives sorrow and emotional suffering a metaphysical form, whereas the story of ‘Mother!’ portrays the affliction of nature. Not just that, the latter movie comprises far more layers and is riddled with symbols of Christianity. These aspects give the narrative better depth than a conventional horror flick and make the audience ponder.
6. The Others (2001)
‘The Others‘ is a period horror film directed by Alejandro Amenábar about Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two children living in a completely dark house. Since her children are photosensitive, she covers all windows and doors with curtains to ensure no light enters their home. Right after World War II ends, Grace awaits her husband’s return but gets a clue that ghosts might be in the house. Interestingly, her arc in ‘The Others’ is similar to Rose’s in ‘Smile.’
In both movies, the women try to connect the dots to understand what’s happening. The audience is with them on this journey and sees everything from their perspective. Another intriguing aspect of Rose and Grace is how they block out certain aspects of their lives because of how much pain it causes them. However, things eventually make sense for the audience when they face it, and that payoff leaves everyone satisfied.
5. Sinister (2012)
‘Sinister’ is a supernatural horror film by Scott Derrickson that centers on Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and his family. When the struggling true crime writer moves into a new house with his family, he comes across a strange box in the attic containing films of various people getting murdered horrifyingly. As he watches these videos for his novels, Ellison realizes there’s more to these videos, and his family could be in danger.
Although, ‘Sinister’ has an entirely different story than ‘Smile,’ the tropes feel familiar. In both movies, the so-called paranormal activity becomes increasingly scary. The way Ellison starts spiraling is analogous to what happens to Rose as the narrative progresses. Above and beyond this, each film is packed with traditional tropes of the genre yet keeps the audiences engaged.
4. It Follows (2014)
David Robert Mitchell’s directorial ‘It Follows’ is a critically acclaimed supernatural psychological thriller. After Jay has sexual intercourse with her boyfriend, Hugh, she discovers that she is now cursed with a supernatural entity. Soon she finds out that the entity passes from one person to another via sexual intercourse. To save herself from dying, Jay has to sleep with someone else.
Like ‘Smile,’ ‘It Follows’ also portrays a real-world subject in a paranormal form. Thus, how the supernatural entity finds its victims directly reflects the real-world issue. These facets make the story more palatable and tether something otherworldly to reality.
3. The Babadook (2014)
Directed by Jennifer Kent, ‘The Babadook‘ is a supernatural thriller about a mother, Amelia, who reads her child, Sam, a scary story titled ‘Mister Babadook.’ However, he starts experiencing unexplainable things and fears that ‘The Babadook’ from the story has come alive. Now, it is up to Amelia to help her son confront his fears and get rid of them.
Although ‘The Babdook’ and ‘Smile’ are different in their aesthetics and narrative style, they resemble each other on a conceptual level. In both movies, the supernatural entities represent trauma buried deep within people. Amelia and Rose both try to deal with this aspect, but how their arcs progress is pretty different. Hence, despite having similarities in the concept, both movies offer the audience different perspectives.
2. Hereditary (2018)
Ari Aster’s ‘Hereditary‘ is one of the best horror films we have seen in the last few years. It begins with the funeral of Annie’s mother, who was a significant part of her life. As the family grieves, unusual incidents start to occur in the house, which causes Annie to spiral and lead her down a sinister path. ‘Hereditary’ is also an off-beat take on mental health yet takes an entirely different direction with its portrayal of the subject.
There are a few similarities between the mother-daughter relationship in ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Smile.’ In both cases, the daughters are scarred due to traumatic experiences involving their mother. The way Annie starts questioning what’s real and what’s not reminds us of Rose. Besides, both films have several layers of meaning that people ponder after the credits roll.
1. The Ring (2002)
Directed by Gore Verbinski, ‘The Ring‘ is one of the scariest and most popular horror films to have come out in the past few decades. When Rachel stumbles upon a videotape, she plays it and watches an unsettling video which is merely a montage of clips. Several eerie visuals give her the chills and stay with her even after the short video ends. Soon, Rachel discovers that anyone who watches the footage dies within one week. To save herself, she must try to find the meaning behind the video before time runs up.
The basic premise with which ‘Smile’ begins shares a semblance with ‘The Ring.’ On the one hand, Rose sees a patient die, whereas Rachel sees a videotape. Rose and Rachel discover they have only one week to save themselves from what seems like a curse. Hence, the two characters search for answers and learn critical details about the patient and the video. Not just that, both carry a certain amount of ambiguity, keeping the audience hooked until the end.
Read More: Is Smile (2022) Based on a True Story?