Parker Finn’s “Smile” is not for the weak-stomached. From the intense opening shots, this film has you wanting to look away every scene. With suspense and jump scares around every corner, it seems that “Smile” would be a hit. Still, it doesn’t do enough to keep the audience invested throughout, causing it to be another mediocre horror flick.
The movie follows a psychiatric therapist, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), who witnesses the bizarre, gruesome suicide of her patient. Rose begins to break down as she hallucinates more realistic and unnerving experiences. Though it seems like strange coincidences at first, she starts realizing that these incidents are actually connected and she may be dealing with a more supernatural evil. With help from others, it becomes evident that she is part of a long line of curses.
Throughout the movie, the directors attempt to keep the audience on their toes with constant, unrelenting jump scares. The cinematography uses eerie shots with dim lighting and quick camera pans, adding to the tension in each scare. In addition, a very strategic use of silence evokes fear. Yet, even with these techniques, the scares begin to feel repetitive and predictable towards the end of the movie.
Between the moments of suspense and fear-inducing jump scares, the long breaks of plot armor feel dull and unconvincing. Rose ends up meeting with people who are affected by the same curse, yet none of the interactions feel natural or drive the story forward in significant ways. Though the writers tried to piece together a story behind the curse of the smile, it was rushed and felt unrealistic. No matter how unsettling or horrific the scares were, they don’t make up for the lack of a supportive plot.
The movie also fails to leave viewers with a strong ending. There were multiple chances to strengthen the final scenes, yet the directors chose to follow the stereotypical horror movie unhappy ending. The directors give a false sense of hope and redemption when Rose incinerates the demon within her mother’s old house. If the writers kept this as an alternate ending, it would have added a nuanced, underlying theme of trauma and redemption, but instead they wrote an unoriginal finale that left the viewers with little to contemplate.
Apart from the movie itself, the marketing campaign was refreshing and creative. The never-seen-before strategy by the movie’s advertisers was genius: hiding different actors within national television broadcasts, barely visible to the average viewer. If one looked close enough at the baseball game or news station they were watching, they could see various patrons in the background wearing a harrowing smile on their faces throughout each broadcast. As planned, these bizarre feats of terror went viral on differnet social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, which made me very curious as to what the movie would hold.
Ultimately, “Smile” isn’t a movie I would recommend paying money to watch, as a few good scares and a decent performance from Sosie Bacon carried the entirety of the film. Without a memorable plot or ending, this film will most likely end up being forgotten by viewers soon after watching it.
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