After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain.
THE GOOD STUFF
Sosie Bacon– When you think about it, 2022 became a year of strong women performances at the head of major theatrical releases for the horror genre. Women like Keke Palmer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Georgina Campbell, Jessie Buckley, Mia Goth, and Bacon (amidst others) have given performances that anchor their respective films in a way that ends up being admirable no matter how good the film itself is.
Bad performances in films like these tend to blandly display five different levels of being terrified without ever fleshing out a character to root for. Bacon adds enough vulnerability and dignity to this character that I couldn’t help coming away thinking that the movie overachieved in casting her.
Honest Boo scares– One of the gimmicks of this movie is to shoot a character’s face in close-up, and then to silently turn the camera or smash cut to something creepy in the background with NO MUSIC CUES. Or they’ll prolong a shot just enough for you to know that something shouldn’t be in place or that somebody is going to do something creepy relatively soon.
This movie is chop full of boo scares. However, all of them involve the audience paying attention to what’s happening. And that is respectable, to say the very, very least.
THE ART OF MISDIRECTION- Another gimmick of this movie is to use the plot device of hallucinations to continuously throw off the audience. Though this card is played a little bit too much by the end of the film, there are no cheap lead-ins to these hallucinations, making it hard to predict. The misdirection genuinely blindsided the audience that I saw this with more than once. Extremely respectable choices when it came to this.
THE BAD STUFF
USHER & STASEY- I had somewhat of an epiphany while watching this film as to why my distaste for all Jessie T. Usher performances has been so visceral. Usher remains expressionless no matter how emotional the scene calls for him to be. That is certainly the case here. I’m not saying they had to go into some overwhelmingly dramatic territory to make these drama scenes of his have any impact, but certain things are hard to unsee.
Caitlin Stasey is even more of a conundrum. Her performance is relatively brief, all things considered, but in one particularly cringe-worthy scene, you can tell that she’s… TRYING to cry, and it’s like…
THE UGLY STUFF
THE STORY- Horror movies are a funny thing. I truly believe that modern-day American audiences have been so inundated with bull****, cheaply made, cash grab, cop-out type of American horror films that when we come across something that has style and is clever… we forgive a lot of the storytelling flaws that plague American horror films.
There are lots of story problems here:
*Outside of the main character, this is a film with thinly written supporting characters.
*We get a nice backstory to the character, but the meat of it comes way too late.
*We don’t get any plausible backstory as to why the smiling is happening right now, how to really stop it, or where it comes from.
*And as previously mentioned, the misdirection is overplayed to the point where the ending of the film feels like a cop-out.
Ultimately, smile is clever enough, stylish enough, and unpredictable enough to get you a good moviegoing experience in comparison to a lot of other decent horror movies that have been released this year. And that’s more than enough for it to be recommendable.
SMILE is in theaters now.