Director – Parker Finn (Laura Hasn’t Slept, The Hidebehind)
Starring – Sosie Bacon (Wyrm, 13 Reasons Why), Jessie T. Usher (The Boys, Tales of the Walking Dead), and Kyle Gallner (Scream, Jennifer’s Body)
Release Date – 2022
Rating – 2.5/5
I’ve been more invested in theatrical releases this year than years previously. I don’t know if that’s because the pandemic put such a strain on the indie horror community resulting in less than normal indie releases or the theatrical releases from this year has been more impressive. Regardless, the year has brought us X, Pearl, Black Phone, Barbarian, and I’m sure some others are skipping my mind.
When I started receiving press drops for the horror film Smile I was somewhat interested in it. The viral marketing for the film was fucking brilliant but I was afraid the gimmick was wasted on advertising and not as enjoyable in the film. I requested a review copy and decided to give it a spin after revisiting X and its prequel Pearl.
**Spoiler Alert** Smile follows a therapist who finds herself haunted by a supernatural force after she witnesses a new patient’s suicide. While investigating the young woman’s life and what lead up to her suicide, she finds her life mirroring hers. It’s a race against to clock as she tries to find a way to stop the evil forces at work before she is forced to take her own life. **Spoiler Alert**
I went into this one hearing wonderful things about it but Smile ended up not being for me. I found myself watching my watch more than I was the screen and the unlikable characters made it one extremely tough film to finish. I wanted to like it but it just wasn’t for me.
The acting in this one fairly decent but I found myself not caring about the characters at all. It was great seeing Kal Penn and Kyle Gallner. It’s not often that you see Penn in a genre film so that was cool. However, Gallner is known for his appearance in horror titles ranging from The Haunting in Connecticut, Jennifer’s Body, Red State, and the remake of A Nightmare on Elm St. just to name a few. I love seeing him pop up in genre titles from time to time. With that being said, the characters are very generic and flat which didn’t give the cast much to work with.
The story for this one reminded me a lot of The Grudge with a lot of predictable scenes and gags. I did like the jump scares we get but the story itself was a mess in my opinion. The movie’s premise is easily compared to the Grudge where someone dies so many days after watching a cursed tape. In Smile, someone dies so many days after watching someone cursed end their own life. I assumed the film would focus more on mental illness and ride the line between horror and psychological thriller especially after you learn the protagonist was a therapist. Instead, The Grudge inspired story is so predictable that you can turn a first time watch into a drinking game.
Finally, the film has some impressive make-up effects and some bloody deaths but if you are looking for gore then you will be very disappointed. In fact, the film has a small body count, but most are done off screen except for one or two and the deaths were not memorable. Overall, Smile had a lot of praise coming from the horror community but it’s clear it was overhyped. The movie wasn’t for me and if I really want to see a similar story again I’ll just toss in the original Grudge from Arrow Video. I wanted to like it because I hate writing negative reviews for movies sent to me but this is one I would recommend skipping.