“Smile” spins the traditional horror plotline with a manic twist


Credit to Paramount

Considering the other recent installments and remakes of previous horror films such as the new Scream (2022) and Halloween Kills (2022), remakes of high grossing films from the 90’s, they did nothing but disappoint.

Warning: Plot and character spoilers alluded to.

Director Parker Finn makes his blockbuster debut with bizarre horror film, “Smile.” With the film’s  unconventional and harrowing movie marketing, “Smile” was highly anticipated and it did not disappoint. While the linear killings of “Smile” are similar to horror classics such as “The Ring,” the manic smiles provide a twist on the ordinary horror outline. 

Released on Sept. 30, 2022, it made $22 million and topped the box office on opening weekend. Starting a week prior to the release date of the film, paramount performers were prominently placed at baseball games where they plastered huge, unnatural and petrifying smiles on their faces. Gaining a lot of attention with this method acting marketing it attracted many to see the film, and it did not disappoint.

The story revolves around psychiatrist Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon). The film opens with Cotter witnessing the suicide of college student Laura (Caitlin Stasey), her PTSD-suffering patient. Just days before, Laura had seen her college professor violently bludgeon himself to death. Noticing a pattern yet?

Just prior to Laura’s gruesome death, she described the “hallucinations” she was seeing to Cotter as an entity that  manifested in different people and places around her, leisurely infiltrating all aspects of her life. Ultimately driving her to the edge of insanity, but the worst part of it all was the way it would smile at her.

Cotter, upon witnessing the death of Laura, began to realize there was truth to Laura’s words as she began experiencing every interaction Laura had described. Starting here every interaction with anyone, or the things she witnesses when alone are unnerving. 

With the interesting cinematography, nightmarish scenes and Bacon’s performance, this film passed the standard for horror movies that have been released in the last few years. Many being disappointing installments of previous hit movies, such as It Chapter two, The Conjuring 3, and Scream (2022). All of which never was able to achieve the level of horror and fear in the audience as they had created before.

Cotter begins going on a goosechase to understand the malevolent creature after. She soon begins to see a similar pattern of people who were seeing this creature and smiling an dead within a week of these visions, Although the back story of why this entity does what it does isn’t explained, Finn manages to keep the audience engaged with grotesque imagery and every scene imbrued with blood. 

Finn’s writing and storyline was able to use a fairly recognizable horror movie plot while simultaneously incorporating the stigma surrounding mental illness and its effects. In every horror movie conventional entities feed off of fear, but rarely do they feed off of trauma and depression. By purposefully making Cotter a psychiatrist who treated multiple patients for their issues slowly become treated as a mental patient herself adds to the depth of the vulnerability and disturbing themes within the film.

“Smile” does an incredible job of maintaining audience engagement. Unnerving scenes and jump scares keep the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the movie. Eerie grins and gut-wrenching gore assure that the audience doesn’t get bored. Incredible acting and director panache blend to create one of the best movies of 2022’s spooky season.