With twists and creepy expressions around every corner, Smile will have you never looking at a smile the same again.
It’s almost October, which means spooky season has officially arrived. Studios look to pump out horror movies at this time of the year, and a lot of them generally fall in the same cookie cutter category of a thin story and cheap jump scares. Smile has been highly anticipated ever since test screenings were received very well despite looking like it was filled with its own fair share of jump scares. The trailer alone was enough to give people nightmares, but would it be any different than many other scary flicks that leave audiences feeling like they’ve seen the same movie before? The answer is no. Smile might have a lot of familiar elements and themes, but is a sharp and genuinely scary good time.
Smile follows Dr. Rose (Sosie Bacon), who witnesses a traumatic event involving a patient. After this, she starts experiencing terrifying and confusing incidents that seemingly only she can see. All of this forces her to confront her dark past that involves childhood trauma that helped shape her into the person she is today.
Smile works well for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that is feels familiar but is still different enough to be very scary and entertaining. There are jump scares, sure. But they rarely feel cheap and forced. Instead, they feel mostly appropriate and timed correctly. Smile is really a blend of a few horror classics. It feels like the 2001 horror classic The Ring combined with It Follows and topped off with a touch of the A24 masterpiece Hereditary. It isn’t on the level of The Ring or Hereditary, but falls more in line with It Follows in terms of good horror. Surprisingly enough, it actually has more than a few funny moments as well. The film also benefits from amazing sound editing and chilling score to go with pristine cinematography to really set it apart from the standard scary movie. The creepy smiles from various characters during the movie are hard to get out of your mind when the credits roll. Kudos to the director really capitalizing on its premise quite nicely.
There are a few issues with Smile, none of which drastically take away from the movie, but they need to be pointed out regardless. First off, it’s almost two hours long. Some horror movies have reasons to be that long, but Smile would have benefited from trimming off 10-15 mins of repetitiveness. The script is more of a slow burn than one would think. This works as a whole, but there are a few parts that could have been cut out altogether to give it closer to a 90-minute runtime. In addition to that, Smile could have earned a step up if it dove into a few of its themes just a little bit more. Mental health and mental illness, specifically derived from childhood trauma, are the obvious themes in Smile. They work well with Rose’s character and the overall story, but they are only briefly mentioned in a few scenes. You get the feeling that the movie wanted to dive into those themes even more, but instead they serve as a surface level motif. There might be an even longer cut of Smile where more scenes discuss the mental health side of Rose’s story even more, but that will most likely never come to light. With all of this being said, none of it derails the movie by any means, but it is noticeable.
All in all, Smile is a very terrifying movie and will most likely be one of the scariest ones of 2022. The concept works so well and the creepy smiling is something that will stick with viewers for a very long time. The acting is great from top to bottom, especially the lead Sosie Bacon. She does a fantastic job slowly unraveling as she loses her mind throughout the movie. The final act will really have viewers on the edge of their seats and it nails the ending , which is important for a movie like this to get it right. You will feel unsettled the next time you see someone smiling out in public.
(out of five stars)