Paramount Pictures

Movie Review: Smile

13:00 October 06, 2022
By: David Vicari

Smile is not to be confused with the 1975 Michael Ritchie directed charmer of the same name that satirizes beauty pageants. No, this new Smile is a grim horror movie that is well made, but not a very thrilling or fun scarefest.

Psychiatric ward therapist Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is called in to meet with a very frightened young woman (Caitlin Stasey) who claims that she is being terrorized by an evil entity that pretends to be other people. A week prior, the woman witnessed her college professor bludgeon himself to death with a hammer. Rose tries to explain to the woman that the traumatic situation is causing hallucinations. In response, the woman freaks out, flashes a creepy smile, and then slits her own throat in front of a horrified Rose. Soon afterward, Rose, herself, starts having hallucinations of people smiling at her and other weird images. Rose's past trauma of her abusive mother, who died of a drug overdose, also begins to boil to the surface. She feels she is unraveling, and it is putting stress on her relationships with both her fiance, Trevor (Jessie T. Usher), and her sister, Holly (Gillian Zinser), so she seeks help from her ex, Joel (Kyle Gallner), who is a police officer.

Basically, this is like Night of the Demon (1957), It Follows (2014), or, take your pick, The Ring (2002) or Ringu (1998) where a person has so many days to pass a diabolical curse on to someone else before he or she is consumed by evil. Clearly, it's a concept that has worked many times before, and while Smile has some effectively creepy moments, it really isn't that scary. The many jump scares are telegraphed so far in advance that they fail to work.

The best part of Smile is the central performance by Bacon, the daughter of actors Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon. Sosie Bacon is excellent here, really making us understand and feel for the character and the terrible burdens placed on her. In fact, the amount of despair that the character endures feels so cruel that the movie isn't really that much fun to watch.

Smile is the debut feature from writer and director Parker Finn, and is based on his 2020 short film Laura Hasn't Slept. The guy has talent. In Smile he shows off interesting visuals, and draws excellent performances from his actors. His screenplay is mainly what trips him up. It is routinely plotted and so predictable that I knew how the movie was going to end long before the halfway mark. And speaking of the ending, it is pretty lousy. I heard groans from the audience at the showing I attended when the end credits began to roll. Now, it wasn't as pronounced as the boos I witnessed as a kid during the cut to black at the end of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), but there was still an air of disappointment at the end of Smile.

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