The Two Horror Movies You Need To Watch After Smile

Major spoilers for "Smile" follow.

"Smile" is an unsettling new horror film from writer and director Parker Finn. Sosie Bacon stars as Dr. Rose Cotter, a dedicated emergency room psychologist who meets a graduate student unnerved by the violent suicide of her professor and tormented by a strange entity. After the student commits a grisly suicide in front of her, Rose is haunted by seemingly everyday people with evil smiles. This causes Rose to question her sanity and unlocks memories from her traumatic childhood

Like previous horror heroines, Rose faces a moral dilemma when trying to undo the curse; will she kill herself to end her torture or murder someone else to pass it on and survive? She only has seven days to decide. Bacon's devastating performance allows the audience to identify with her abject fear and confusion. 

Finn's film feels very familiar, clearly drawing inspiration from a host of popular horror films such as "Rosemary's Baby," "Hereditary," "Drag Me to Hell," and even the mediocre Blumhouse release "Truth or Dare." But there are two films woven into the fabric of "Smile" that you need to watch, both of them gripping stories about leading ladies fighting a curse to avoid a tragic fate.

It Follows

"It Follows" is about a curse that is passed through sexual intercourse instead of by witnessing a bloody suicide. As in "Smile," the curse manifests itself in people who appear normal at first. They can appear out of nowhere and from any location, sometimes walking at a slow pace. If they catch up to you, they will kill you and pursue the last person with the curse. Maika Monroe's performance as Jay anchors the film, making her sense of constantly living on the edge feel palpable. 

Jay also faces a moral dilemma. The only way for her to survive is to continue to outrun the mysterious specters or pass the curse on by having sex with someone else. As in "Smile," these creepy figures shapeshift and could be anyone Jay sees: an older woman, a naked man on a rooftop, a tall man that emerges from the shadows. They wear blank, menacing expressions instead of smiles. It is terrifying to think that a monster could be hidden inside any person you encounter.

Writer and director David Robert Mitchell frames these people from a distance, much like the scene in "Smile" where Rose opens her blinds and sees someone staring at her from the hospital grounds below. The idea of being closely watched by someone so far away without even knowing it is extremely unsettling. "It Follows" is more open-ended, but it is just as stylish and shares the same paranoid apprehension as "Smile."

The Ring

Gore Verbinski's "The Ring" also comes to mind when watching "Smile." There's even a visual callback to one of the most terrifying moments in the film when the disfigured face of a dead character is revealed in a sudden jump scare. "The Ring" famously features a haunted videotape with strange, expressionistic visuals that gives viewers seven days until the drowned ghost Samara comes to scare them to death.

The audience is fully invested in the anguished heroine attempting to break free of the curse. Played by the exceptional Naomi Watts, Rachel is a reporter who watches the cryptic video and faces a conflict when her son accidentally watches it, as well. She must figure out how they can avoid dying without passing along the tape to kill someone else. Unlike "Smile" and "It Follows," where the sense of dread comes from the threat possibly lurking around every corner, "The Ring" plays more like a ticking time bomb. Samara isn't always there, but her imminent arrival and the grim fate she will bring paralyzes you with fear. "The Ring" is a true masterclass in building suspense.

 Both "Smile" and "The Ring" are grim tales of death and abusive upbringings, although Rachel and her son fare a lot better than Rose does. Samara's menacing crawl and long hair covering her face is, much like the monster at the end of "Smile," a petrifying image that sticks with you long after viewing. 

If you liked "Smile," you will enjoy "It Follows" and "The Ring" because they also deal with the idea of being unable to escape a deadly and likely inevitable fate. These eerie stories all feature a unique directorial vision and are anchored by incredible performances from their leading women as their characters suffer breakdowns and everyone doubts their truth.