Smile (2022)

Smile (2022)

Movie Details

Movie: Smile (2022)
Director: Parker Finn
Cast: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, and Kyle Gallner
Movie Type: Horror/Mystery
Release date: 30 September 2022
IMDB Rating: 6.5/10
Languages: English and Spanish
Duration: 1h 55m


Smile (2022)


A story played out a hundred times, but expertly handled, with functional scares and an important message. This is roughly how overseas reviews rate the horror new film Smile and mostly give an imaginary thumbs up. But I’ll be stricter, even though the hilarious and rightly disturbing trailer suggested that Parker Finn’s debut could be among the most interesting horror films of the year. But it doesn’t belong.

Sosie Bacon gives a self-sacrificing and deeply shaken performance in the lead role of psychiatrist Rose, in front of whom a young woman commits suicide. Before dying, he manages to tell her that she’s not crazy because she’s a PhD student (which is a contradiction, of course), and that she’s having visions of smiling people who are dangerous. Rose understandably doesn’t believe her and tries to calm her down, but she can’t prevent a brutal suicide. From that moment on, she starts seeing strange things herself and her peaceful life falls apart.

A seemingly educated and reasonable woman will do two things at that moment. First, he begins to investigate the suicide, which the doctoral student was allegedly present just a few days before her own. This non-specialist investigation leads her to discover that this is an ever-repeating pattern: Anyone who witnesses someone’s suicide kills themselves in some extreme way a few days later, and so the whole traumatic cycle continues. There is an all-too-obvious similarity to films like Kruh or Neutečes, which also worked with a similar deadly curse, passed from one person to another. Unfortunately, however, much more imaginative and a decade or two earlier.

The second activity that the cursed Rose likes to indulge in throughout the film is telling people about the supernatural evil that haunts her. After a negative reaction from her fiance, therapist, boss at work, or nurse, she always takes offense and refuses to understand that the other party does not believe her truly incredible claims, which are no different from those that she did not believe in the beginning. Of course, we can benevolently acknowledge that few of us would behave rationally in a similarly tense situation, but from the audience’s point of view, it is suffering.

The extremely overburnt 115-minute footage would deserve to be shortened by about… half. For at least that long time, the viewer is far ahead of the film, and the only thing that keeps them awake is waiting for the next scare. Fortunately, they are quite sparing with them, in tense moments there is often a ringing of the phone or another element to distract attention so that the real horror comes out all the stronger. So be it. However, even this does not save the very slow pace of the entire narrative, which is highly predictable and painfully lacking in logic.

This narrative and stylistic slowness is perhaps only pleasing with the hesitantly panning camera, thanks to which even the space of Rosia’s vast house seems terrifying. The camera of the unknown Charlie Sarroff also deserves praise for the frequent shots of the characters from close-ups, during which the horror of the stubborn smile stands out even more. Rumors about the quality of the craftsmanship are not out of the question, but the sloppiness of the story and its banality still significantly prevail.

The core of the narrative is dealing with trauma, a potentially very powerful topic. As a child, Rose saw her mother die in somewhat unclear circumstances, and this memory haunts her to this day. That is also why he goes beyond his limits when working in the hospital and tries to help in all circumstances. She never fully healed from this trauma, and maybe that’s why the killer entity got to her. The film thus really opens up an important topic, as it encourages people to confront their traumas, which are not enough to simply sweep them under the carpet. However, it does so in a rather clumsy and ultimately unsatisfactory way, which does not have healing or encouraging effects. Even in this effort, the film is not very successful, although the ending surprises.

This is by far the most interesting premise of the entire film, which the film ultimately deals with less than it should. In our culture, the facial expression of a smile is associated not only with authentic joy but also with decency, wearing a social mask that gives the impression that everything is fine; even though deep down we know it isn’t. The film’s successful marketing, including actors sitting in bleachers at baseball games and smiling for long minutes at the camera, does a nice job of underscoring this social aspect. A much crueler and scarier version of this horror would do without dealing with traumas and violent murders, it would “only” be enough to draw back the curtain of social conventions and show what is behind them; or rather is not. However, Parker Finn squandered this chance.

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