REVIEW: ‘Smile’ will have horror fans smiling

Here in Minnesota, we know all about misleading smiles. It’s called being passive aggressive. The smiles in this film, though, are much more devilish.

Parker Finn makes his feature directorial debut with this new horror film, with Sosie Bacon playing the protagonist Rose. A doctor in a psychiatric ward, Rose regularly works with patients and it’s what brings her into contact with a troubled woman at the movie’s start.

The woman, a PhD student, says she’s been seeing a sinister figure who takes the form of people with an evil grin, before taking her own life. At first, Rose deduces that the woman must have been suffering from a mental ilness, until the same evil force begins appearing before her, too.

The concept of a transferring curse that goes from person to person that’s featured in “Smile,” is certainly nothing new. It was also in the fantastic 2015 horror “It Follows,” as well as 2018’s awful “Truth or Dare.”

Fortunately for audiences, the quality of “Smile” leans much closer to the former than the latter. In fact, it can also be positively compared to 2002’s “The Ring.”

Like “The Ring,” “Smile” is focused on a smart, competant woman who’s forced into a horific situation in a race against the clock. The character journey at the center of the movie is what really makes it work as well as it does.

Rose is a rather sympathetic character, and an audience can’t help but feel for her as she goes through this difficult situation. She’s a person who tries to help people in her career, and when confronted with this new threat in her life, attempts to make logical steps to fix it before investigating it further to find answers.

Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

It’s definitely a positive when a character in a horror film makes good decisions and can be relatable to the audience. Here, it makes Rose a character the audience actively want to invest in.

There’s depth to Rose’s chartacter with her current situation, too, as her mother died of suicide, too, and she’s now having to rework thorugh that grief.

The same can’t really be said about the supporting ensemble. None of the other characters really stand out like they should. For example, Jessie Usher who plays Rose’s fiance brings such little energy to the role.

His future wife is clearly suffering and the character is reacting with little concern at times. Whether it was the direction or Usher’s acting, the end result was the character being unconvincing.

Of course the big question, though, is “was it scary?” The answer is, for the most part, yes. Be warned, this is a film that relies on a good deal of jump scares, but many of them have a solid payoff, making them worth it most of the time. The film also has some real unsettling moments that induce chills.

“Smile” may be quite similar to horror films of the past, but it does enough right to stand out on its own. The film centers on a good character to follow who’s played by an actress that gives a good performance and there’s plenty of creepy elements to make it an above average horror film. It has a couple issues, and the ending could have been tighter, but it’s still a solid genre entry. 3.5 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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