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"Smile" Review

 I'm not a big horror movie fan; it's more the girlfriend's thing. It just doesn't interest me much and what I've seen lately like the last two Halloween debacles hasn't improved its standing in my eyes. But after she tapped out of Black Adam after about two minutes, we were looking for something to watch and the horror sleeper hit of 2022, Smile ($214M global gross for a $17M budget, though that seems high for what it is), was available. 

Smile had a brilliant viral marketing campaign where they placed actors behind home plate at baseball games who sat their smiling weirdly and generally freaking out audiences. "What's the deal with those smiling people?!?" was all the buzz and it hyped up the opening weekend attendance, but why did it have legs? So I decided to take one for the team and see what's popular with the masses and two hours later, I have to say the masses just need to start mailing their cash to me because they have no taste in movies.

Smile is about Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon, daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick), a overworked psychiatrist whose encounter with a disturbed woman (Caitlin Stasey) whose art history professor had committed suicide with a hammer(!!) in front of her ends with the woman freaking out and slicing her throat while creepily smiling.

In the aftermath, Rose begins to have hallucinations of....something threatening her, sometimes horrific apparitions, sometimes people she knows who are telling her she's going to die (rude!) and smiling at her. Her fiance (Jessie T. Usher) and boss (Kal Penn) think she's losing her marbles, but her ex-boyfriend and cop, Joel (Kyle Gallner), helps her investigate which leads to the discovery that the woman and her professor were the latest links in a chain of gruesome suicides where each victim was a witness to a previous suicide. Will Rose be able to break the chain?

There are multiple problems with Smile beyond the fact its core premise is a mashup of It Follows and The Ring. With few exceptions the performances are all subpar and Bacon is particularly one-note, though she's not given much to do by the thin script by writer-director Parker Finn expanding from his short film Laura Can't Sleep. Speaking of expanding, clocking in at nearly two hours it's easily a half-hour too long which is lethal considering how little is done with the time. 

Rather than set Rose up as a fairly balanced woman and establish a baseline to decline from, we instead are introduced to a woman already not in a great place so her descent doesn't seem as steep as we're meant to feel. The rush to get that inciting suicide in puts everything subsequent in its shadow so it's all rushed up front than slows down massively. Almost every plot twist is predictable and even the jump scares are telegraphed. The unsatisfactory ending clearly intended to set up a sequel which no one will care about makes it all a waste of viewers time.

Afterwards I asked the missus whether all horror movies are this stupid and she said pretty much, though this was supposedly better than the heavily hyped Barbarian, which she found underwhelming. As for Smile, my verdict is is 🙁.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.


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