Smile Review: Smile and die in the cult horror of 2022

The most profitable horror of last season, capable of not only cash more than 10 times the budget – breaking through the ceiling of 216 million dollars – but also to conquer a large part of the American critics, not always so benevolent with productions of this type. For once, Jason Blum’s hand isn’t behind it the unexpected success of Smilereleased in September last year in our cinemas and recently available on home video, distributed in a substantial two-disc edition by Plaion.

An opportunity therefore to talk about a title that has attracted the public in the hall, relying on a well-established genre imagery based on curses that are passed from individual to individual, in the wake of what has been done by modern cults of the genre such as the everlasting Ringu / The Ring or the most recent It Follows (2014). But when is there actually original in the scarce two hours of vision, which mark the debut behind the camera in a feature film by Parker Finn? Let’s find out together.

Smile: where evil hides

The story sees the psychiatrist Rose Cotter as protagonist, recovering from a dramatic event in the workplace: in fact she witnessed the violent suicide of a patient who had just been hospitalized, a PhD student who brutally took her own life in front of her eyes. Before cutting her throat, the victim had a diabolical smile printed on her face, which from that moment on begins to torment Rose.

The doctor, who has never fully overcome a childhood trauma related to the death of her mother, feels now threatened by a presence that torments her inside her own home and begins to manifest increasingly evident disturbances, so much so that those closest to her believe that she is in the midst of a breakdown and that she is close to insanity. In reality Rose is only the last piece of a curse that spreads from suicide to suicide and to try to avoid the worst she tries to find out how to stop this entity that increasingly obsesses her.

Scares I’ve seen before

Seven days like the aforementioned curse of Samara / Sadako and a death to come that spreads among those who are in the wrong place at the wrong time, up to an epilogue that searches the canonical bogus twists for yet another ploy to try to surprise the viewer. On balance there is no trace of innovative or revolutionary material in Smile and it is difficult to understand the many praises he has generously earned from overseas critics.

The screenplay is in fact quite derivative in following the most obvious topoi of the genre, from the prologue that unleashes the “evil eye” on the unfortunate protagonist to her discovery of the mystery – never clarified – that lies behind this inexplicable and violent trail of suicides and the staging does nothing to at least aesthetically elevate the tale. In fact, the direction recycles predictable jump-scares for the umpteenth time, with sudden apparitions deformed by that sardonic psychopathic grin, and accompanies us to an alleged final showdown where the special effects dominate the scene, with a pinch of splatter peeping out in the bloodiest stages. More than appreciable is instead the performance of Sosie Bacon – daughter in art of Kevin who returned to the limelight in the Christmas special of Guardians of the Galaxy (read here the review of Guardians of alassia Holiday special) – which he manages to outline an ambiguous character full of dramatic facets and, despite obvious writing gaps, traumatized to the right point in an attempt to prove to everyone that she is not as crazy as her missing mother. Finally, the two hours of viewing appear exaggerated, also considering how the short film is the basis of the project Laura Hasn’t Slept which, in a much more reduced and contained form, was more incisive and here it was too much diluted in a tired repetition of dejavu more or less inspired.

Smile Review: Smile and die in the cult horror of 2022