Smile, the disturbing horror movie by Parker Finn, took the world by storm when it hit theatres earlier this year. The thriller movie tells the story of Doctor Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), a young woman who finds herself tormented by a mysterious grinning spirit only she can see.
Can Rose escape this malevolent monster? Well, that would be telling but what we can say is that this movie is one of the scariest films we’ve seen this year and features the nastiest creature to menace a movie since whatever the hell that thing from It Follows was.
To celebrate Smile’s release on Video on Demand, we spoke to Judy Reyes, who plays Victoria in the monster movie, about her experiences making Smile.
The Digital Fix: Were you a fan of horror movies before you made Smile?
Judy Reyes: Um, no. I’m actually a little traumatised by horror films. When I was a kid, my sisters would want to go to horror films, but I would be too scared. So they’d lie to me.
Then after that happened three or four times, I just stopped going to the movies with them.
TDF: Do you remember what the movies were?
JR: The first movie was Carrie with Sissy Spacek, then it was Friday the 13th, and then The Shining. And then I never went to the movies [laughs]. But to make a long story short, I avoid [horror movies], and I didn’t become a fan.
But you know what? And I gotta tell you when I saw the screening of [Smile], I had a blast. And my friends and colleagues who I took with me just had a ball with it, and I think just by the fact that I was in it, it kind of changed my point of view.
TDF: So, if you’re not a fan of horror movies, then what was it about the Smile that appealed to you as an actor?
JR: If I’m truly honest, it was the role, you know? It was pivotal to the story and that monologue where I’m kicking [Sosie Bacon] out of the room.
It was an opportunity to just create and build a whole person. So it was a challenge, doing two compact two scenes, but I was willing to take it on.
TDF: So, did you do anything to prepare? Maybe come up with a backstory for Victoria that we didn’t learn in the film.
JR: Yes, and yes. I had a substantial amount of time to prepare, from the offer to filming. Even on the day, there were a few hours of delay, which gave me the opportunity to really work on the character.
And Parker Finn, the wonderful director and writer of the film, we were working together just like changing and switching and moving, which is the joy of an actor, almost the theatrical roots that I come from, so it was a great opportunity.
TDF: Can you tell us anything about Victoria that we didn’t see?
JR: No. [Laughs] A lot of it’s because it’s a mental and physical and emotional burden playing a character like this. Once you use it, it does leave you. I think it’s part of a healing process, but it does leave you just for your own emotional and mental health.
TDF: Let’s loop back to what you said about your friends having a ball with this movie. Smile has been a runaway success, but I found it very disturbing…
JR: And do you like horror?
TDF: I love it. There’s just something quite harrowing about this film?
JR: [Laughs] Yeah, my friends, who are all horror film fans, were like, ‘that was awesome. It was so scary. It was so great’. It was so they just loved it. You know, I didn’t have anything to compare it to because, you know, I don’t really watch the genre.
TDF: It’s a film I’ve been recommending to all of my horror friends. But what I wanted to ask you was, and you’ll probably give quite a unique perspective on this as a non-horror fan, why do you think audiences are drawn to scary movies like this? Especially when they’re as tough a watch as Smile?
JR: I think it’s an escapist way to deal with real-life issues. You know? Horror gives people an opportunity to have fun about really potentially real problems. In this particular case, you know, it gives people an opportunity to ruminate on mental health.
There’s also the fun of ‘do you think it was real?’ And in this world, in this time that we’re living in, people want to have a little bit of fun, but you really can’t escape the fact that shit is rough right now [laughs].
TDF: Considering it’s such a spooky movie, what was the atmosphere like on set?
JR: You know, what’s so funny? It felt super familiar, and the environment was very helpful. Um, like, just an old creepy house that someone you lived next door to when you were growing up? It felt familiar, which was really helpful and also the horribly frightening paintings.
TDF: Did Parker do anything to keep the mood up on set?
JR: Parker Finn, who’s the writer, and director, is an extraordinarily upbeat man. For a film director, I think it’s essential for him to keep that tone because, in front of the camera, you are messing with stuff and also not to lose your sense of humour.
You know, when you actually deliver the scene that you’re trying to direct, there’s excitement from all these artists and filmmakers. And I mean, Sosie bacon, who plays Rose, did such an extraordinarily powerful job. I can’t imagine living an entire two months with that character and sympathising and empathising and delivering that where she is emotionally.
TDF: You obviously have quite an intense experience with, so say, when you throw out, how can you talk me through that scene?
JR: It was great we’d never known each other. The characters don’t know each other, and we didn’t really engage very much until the scenes were over. So again, it’s helpful. So it was healthy for our performances to keep just a little bit of distance, but we were grateful to be working together at the end of it.
Smile is available to Download & Keep on December 14 and on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, and DVD December 26.