“Smile” is written and directed by Parker Finn and is based on “Laura Hasn’t Slept,” a 2020 short film he previously made. This film stars Sosie Bacon (Scream, 13 Reasons Why), Jessie T. Usher (Survivor’s Remorse, The Boys), Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars, Smallville), Caitlin Stasey (The Sleepover Club, Neighbours), Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Designated Survivor), and Rob Morgan (Daredevil, Stranger Things). This film follows Dr. Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist, who witnesses a patient commit suicide during an appointment. Before her death, said patient says she is being chased by a smiling entity that tells her she is going to die. When Rose starts seeing strange happenings after said incident, she must find a way to survive and confront this reality.
Paramount is having a heck of year so far with its theatrical content. Between “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and the latest member to join the billion dollar club, “Top Gun: Maverick,” the studio is maintaining a solid track record with its tentpoles. Early on in the year, “Jackass Forever,” which was made for $10 million, ended up making over eight times that while in the cinemas. By the looks of things, “Smile” is following in the footsteps of all these projects. This movie came out at the tail end of September, and it is clearly having some notable success. After all, it has currently raked in more than $130 million at the box office so far. When considering the film is based on a short, a feature-length debut, and was produced on a $17 million budget, that is incredible. With Halloween just around the corner, I predict this film will continue to having staying power. After all, not only is it a financial success, but people are liking the movie itself. As for my thoughts, the hype is real. “Smile” is my favorite horror movie of the year.
Now, I have not seen every horror flick that has come out in 2022. I skipped “Scream,” and I still have not gotten around to watching “X.” Part of me wants to wait to maybe do an “X” and “Pearl” double feature. But of the ones I have seen, “Smile” might be the most… Grin-inducing. Almost every time I went to the movies, I saw a trailer for “Smile,” and it kind of had a campy vibe to it at times. Not all of what I saw was camp, but a trailer where an overly expressive dude repeatedly screams “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!” does not promise Shakespeare. If anything, I was nevertheless in for the ride. Little did I know how much I would enjoy said ride.
The star of the show, both literally and figuratively, is Sosie Bacon as Rose Cotter. Bacon is perhaps perhaps responsible for my favorite lead performance in a horror film since Toni Collette in “Hereditary.” As Rose, Bacon delivers a performance where she comes off as increasingly twisted to those around her. The way this is executed from the giving and receiving end only makes me continue to root for her. The beauty of this performance also highlights the stellar direction of Parker Finn, who does a great job at putting you in everyone’s shoes, but eloquently brings you straight back to Rose’s.
Seeing “imaginary” things is nothing new in horror. In fact, I recently watched “It Follows” for the first time where such a concept was also handled well. Although the best thing about “Smile” is the altering perspectives between Sosie and the people she knows. It is how Sosie is seeing all these things and it causes people to have all these different emotions. None of which are remotely positive. While some of the happenings of this regard may lead to some predictable moments, the execution is solid enough for these things to work.
Once again, if you are not familiar with me as a movie watcher, horror might be my weakest genre. It is the one I seem to watch the least, and when it comes to my favorite movies, not many of them are actually within the horror realm. Sure, there’s “Jaws,” but by today’s standards, that is not a horror fest. That said, “Smile,” while not being as good as “Jaws,” is one of the scariest movies I have seen in my life. I watched a good chunk of horror over the past few years for Scene Before, and I cannot recall the last time, maybe other than “A Quiet Place,” where I jittered so much because something spooky may have been bound to happen. If you are looking for the spooks this season, this movie has them. Even the jumpscares are great. They are used sparingly, and therefore, perhaps used effectively.
“Smile” is a movie that makes something seemingly innocent look like the scariest thing on the planet. Smiles are not scary, they release serotonin. It is a fact. Although let’s be real, the smiles in “Smile” are definitely unsettling. This is a notion that I would also apply to what could be the best scene in the movie. Going back to the idea of Rose’s close friends and loved ones having different feelings than her, one of the highlights of “Smile” is during a child’s birthday party. Without giving away much, there is a singular instance that I did not see coming that shook me to the core. There was a cue for what was coming, but what the cue specified is a different story.
The film is not perfect. It uses some elements that have been used in horror films before, although it is somewhat forgivable given how brilliantly said elements are used here. The climax does become maybe a tad convoluted and is not as much of a highlight as the first two acts, but it still delivers enough creeps and entertainment to make the whole experience worthwhile. When I say this is the scariest movie I have seen in a long time, I mean it. My sister evidently enjoys horror more than me. We talked the other day. She wanted me to recommend a scary movie to her. “Smile” was the first thing that came to mind. Maybe it is recency bias, but I am still thinking about “Smile” after I saw it, so the movie more or less did its job.
In the end, “Smile” is the best horror film of 2022. If you ask me, this year has not been too great for movies, but this is one of the few highlights of the year so far. Simply put, I left the theater smiling. If you are looking for a fun movie to watch on Halloween and you do not want to stay home, I give “Smile” the highest of recommendations. Sosie Bacon is a standout as Rose Cotter. The love interest, Trevor, played by Jessie T. Usher, also does a great job. Based on the trailer, this could have been campy as could be. Although from my experience, I was delightfully surprised to find myself not laughing, but instead, quivering. I am going to give “Smile” an 8/10.
Before I go on, I need to talk about this film’s theatrical release, and how monumental of a success this has been for Paramount. This movie was going to go straight to Paramount+, but after positive test screenings, it was upgraded to a theatrical run. This film, which was made for $17 million, has already made over eight times its budget and is one of this year’s highest-grossing movies. I want to thank Paramount for providing one of the scariest times at the movies I had in ages, and for not putting “Smile” on streaming right away, because I do not think this film would have gotten the traction it needed to be as successful as it is.
“Smile” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of horror movies, stay tuned for my review for the all new “Halloween Ends!” This film just released last weekend, and let it be known that I have some things to say. Also, this Friday, October 21st, I will be continuing Steven Spielberg Month, which has already produced a couple reviews including “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” My next review in the series is going to be for the 2017 film “The Post.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Smile?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the scariest horror film you have seen this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!