Look, guys, I’m going to spoil it for you right now: The cat dies.

That’s my review. Creepy smiles, good scares, dead cat. Four out of five stars.

I never like it when animals are introduced in horror movies, because I know they’ll only make it through the first 45 minutes at most. Once the cat (his name is Mustache) was out of the way, I actually relaxed a little. Now I could fully enjoy this spooky scary movie without worrying about whether I’d have to see a dead cat.

But oh no, this movie had more tricks up its sleeve.

Maybe if I’d done more research going into the movie, I’d have been warned of just how poignant its underlying analogy is. But it was a Sunday during fall break, meaning both Jesus and the administration had long ago declared this a day of rest, not research. So I wasn’t ready for the scene directly after the cat’s death, when protagonist Rose’s fiance asks her, in all seriousness:

“Did you kill Mustache?”

That was when it came together for me.

In the opening scenes of “Smile,” we see protagonist Rose as a therapist with an experienced, professional demeanor, costumed in clean clothes and pinned-back hair. This puts her on the opposite end of a spectrum from her patients — of those we see, both are disheveled and babbling manically. She sits with them and assures them that, though what they are experiencing may feel real, it isn’t.

And then one of Rose’s patients kills herself in front of her, thrusting Rose to the other side of the psych ward. Rose starts seeing things nobody else can, and whenever she tries to tell people, they brush her aside. Her boss insists that she take paid leave in order to recuperate, assuming that her hallucinations are merely a product of her trauma.

Mustache is killed. Rose’s fiance blames her. She loses every ally she had because she was honest about what she was experiencing. And nobody she thought she could trust at the start of the movie believes that what’s happening to her is real.

Rose has to experience life through her patients’ eyes: completely alone in the world, because everyone who can help her either wants to medicate or commit her. Almost nobody cares to listen to what she’s saying, or pay attention to her version of what’s happening to her. And that is what dooms her.

RIP Mustache. You will be missed.



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