Smile (2022)
October 3, 2022 9:17 AM - Subscribe

After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can't explain. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.

Also starring Jessie Usher, Kyle Gallner, Robin Weigert, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn, and Rob Morgan.

Written and directed by Parker Finn.

76% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Now playing in theaters. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The trailer for this was really good - it creeped me the hell out so much I'm not sure I want to watch this.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:42 PM on October 3, 2022

I saw this in the theater and I'm shocked it has such a high rating. The audience I saw it with was definitely didn't like it either. This movie had so many jump scares, so many. So sadly this did nothing but annoy me.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:44 PM on October 3, 2022

Well, that's unfortunate.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:06 PM on October 3, 2022

I fully expected to hate this, but I thought it was a really good "haunted house" movie. Not as in a movie that takes place in a haunted location, but one that replicates the experience of going to a haunted house attraction. Yes, it has a lot of jump scares, but it's literally about an evil entity that feeds on trauma. It terrorizes its victims by doing creepy stuff that ramps up to just appearing out of nowhere and screaming in their face, so the audience kind of gets the same experience watching the movie, heh. If that's not your thing, avoid at all costs. If that sounds like some good spooky season fun and you don't mind a fair amount of gruesome violence, I'd recommend it.

I will also say watching it in a Dolby theater with a hugely loud sound system was a hell of an experience, both because of those intense scares and because of the fantastic score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer. I always stick around for the end credits because I'm one of Those Guys, but even if I wasn't I would have this time just to hear that score uninterrupted for a few minutes.
posted by tomorrowromance at 6:03 PM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

I liked this a lot. A bunch of the scenes have lingered with me for a few days, like the one at the end where she's at the ex's house and it turns out to be a dream sequence and he starts SMILING at her. Very creepy and well-done, and I genuinely didn't expect it; I was half annoyed at the beginning of that scene because I thought we were going to get a hackneyed happy ending. Sort of a similar experience I had watching "The Ring."

I usually don't like jump scares, but for some reason I didn't mind these because as tomorrowromance notes, they worked for the themes of the movie. Also, the guy seated next to my husband was literally -- my hand to god, literally -- jumping half out of his seat and going "AAAAAAAAHHH!!" So that was pretty entertaining.
posted by holborne at 8:40 PM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

There was a guy at our screening who at 2 different points said "FUCK YOU" and "WHAT THE FUCK" just loud enough (not yelling, not whispered) and they genuinely sounded like involuntary reactions. I don't remember the last time I sat in a movie that inspired that kind of reaction!
posted by tomorrowromance at 9:05 AM on October 4, 2022

Parker Finn is a good horror filmmaker. A pop horror filmmaker, to be sure, not an auteur, more like a making people leap and spill their popcorn kind of filmmaker like James Wan. Depending on how you rate that kind of thing, that is either good or bad news.

He is definitely skilled, though. And not just at the jump scares. He's got a good visual sense and a positively excellent grasp on using sound. Best of all, he knows how to sprinkle in small unsettling things, like broken glass next to bare feet, or a hangnail that turns bloody. He also mixes in very tight close ups that make small moments a little uneasy.

Every generation of pop filmmakers tends to lift from the recent artsier directors. Finn lifts the everything-is-trauma motif that is the current vogue for the elevated horror crowd. And the setup is sort of a lift of It Follows. But what he builds with them isn't moody slow burning horror, it's the multiplex full of people screaming kind of horror. He's a B+ pop horror director and while that isn't Jordan Peele, it has some value.

Finn seems almost certain to make several more big hits. Not the deepest movies, but fun stuff.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:24 PM on October 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Thank you for acknowledging the lift from It Follows. This is what bothers me the most. It took from a rather recent (less than a decade old) indie horror film that people bitched about being so effete and added conventional horror tropes to it. For example when she was driving to the abandoned the house the moment I saw the phone I knew where it was headed. And that pisses me off. Dude who did It Follows hasn't worked in 5 years and his movie genuinely scared the crap out of me. I want to see more work from him.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:52 PM on October 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

The score was amazing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:12 PM on October 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

The score was indeed amazing.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:23 PM on October 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Nice find, DirtyOldTown! I saw "Laura Hasn't Slept" a few years ago when I was screening shorts for a festival and was hoping it was available somewhere. I'll check out "The Hidebehind" ASAP, too.
posted by tomorrowromance at 10:27 AM on October 5, 2022

There were some compositionally beautiful scenes in this. Also, the director was having silly fun with some shots (the portal wipe, upsidedown drone, etc.)
posted by iamkimiam at 1:14 PM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

I liked this overall. I think DirtyOldTown is spot-on that it's filtering elevated horror themes through a popcorn sensibility, and the general setup is kind of elemental, like a campfire story or creepypasta. I thought it owed a debt to The Babadook as well as It Follows, what with the protagonist slowly succumbing to mental strain throughout the movie, and the motherhood / generational trauma themes. Those themes weren't exactly handled with the subtlest touch, but the movie did at least take them seriously.

While Finn definitely relishes those jump scares, I think he's pretty good at building up suspense as well (you can see that at work in "The Hidebehind" above, where the hiker sort of walks away from his pack and water at one point and doesn't circle back to get it again). I could have done with a few fewer "that scene didn't actually happen, it was all in her head" reversals, but I guess they're sort of baked into the premise.
posted by whir at 9:39 PM on November 18, 2022

Also, I like that Smile is a direct sequel to the "Laura Hasn't Slept" short, with the same actress playing the same character in both.
posted by whir at 9:48 PM on November 18, 2022

I kinda loved this and think it fits well in the vague "elevated horror" category. Very creepy and effective, with relatively smart psychology and mostly believable characters I actually cared about, good acting across the board, a poignant emotional thread running through about suicide trauma being passed from person to person, and then a fantastic, horrifying demonic payoff at the end (though its initial resemblance to a certain shock rocker was a bit of a giggle for a second).

I try to be judicious in my horror viewing (mostly) so I'm not sure when jump scares in and of themselves got such a recent bad rap, but sudden frights are a big part of the fun in horror flicks for me, and I felt that this one offered a lot more than just those cool shocking moments. I guess I can see that if jump scares are the only thing a film offers they'd grate on you, but I didn't get that feeling from Smile. The demonic therapist scene, the deeply upsetting cabin confrontation, the family and relationship was all much richer and more interesting than most other horror flicks.

The It Follows borrow may have seemed obvious, but a demon being passed from person to person is hardly a new horror concept; It Follows just transferred it to sex. This version was to me nearly as horrifying as that one, and I wouldn't mind seeing others. And sure, that closeup of the phone in Rose's car as she walked up to the house was needlessly obvious, but from the moment she ran off to be alone it seemed clear her cop ex would be following. Didn't bother me as much as her not getting it together enough to make sure lots of other folks found out about the pattern she'd discovered, but I guess her good excuse is that it was a stressful time.

I'd say Smile is one of the better horror films I've seen recently, very nearly but not quite as good as It Follows/Hereditary/The VVitch/Midsommar/Babadook, worth an enthusiastic recommendation, with the suicide trauma content warning.
posted by mediareport at 10:07 PM on March 18

Also, I love the story of how Paramount originally planned for it to be a streaming release, but the first test screening audience had such an electric reaction to the film that the execs in the room went, "holy crap this needs to be in theaters" and made $216 million on a $17 million movie:

How Parker Finn’s ‘Smile’ Went From Streaming to Theatrical in a Single Night

Smile was supposed to go to Paramount+ until the first test screening. What happened from there?

Yeah, we were green lit, budgeted and scheduled to be a Paramount+ film, and I was so excited about the opportunity to get to make a movie with a studio as a first-time filmmaker. I was given a really healthy amount of resources for my first film, and we set out to make the best movie we could. And then we got to that first test screening, which was about 12 or 13 weeks into post, and they always warn you ahead of time that horror routinely scores lower than other genres. And horror films that have the mean tone that Smile has score even lower than that, so they were prepared to look at it through that lens.

And at that first test screening, there was no [existing] marketing or knowledge of what the movie was. It was a 270-person, sold-out screening in Burbank, and when the movie started playing, you could feel the electricity in the air. The audience was screaming at the screen, so it was very clear that the communal environment and nature of it was incredible. And to Paramount’s credit, they recognized that, and they got behind the film in such an amazing way by creating this wonderful marketing campaign. They really threw all their support behind it, and it’s beyond surreal to see what the movie has done.

posted by mediareport at 10:14 PM on March 18

The It Follows borrow may have seemed obvious, but a demon being passed from person to person is hardly a new horror concept;

We had some It Follows, some Babadook, a few shorts I have seen over the years (the original three-minute Lights Out in chief), and a frisson of Fallen to finish it off. It was perfectly adequate and I don’t begrudge the two hours I just spent with it, but in six months I will recall nothing of it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:49 PM on July 4

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