‘SMILE’ (2022) – Headcase Or Head Cursed? – Spoiler Free Review

When the promos dropped for Smile, I instantly felt great vibes about the movie. ” What’s that? The monster is something only I can see, and it blankly smiles at me? Okay, that’s creepy… I’m in!” What can I say? I’m a sucker for new ideas in my favorite genre, plus who doesn’t think they’re cursed at times? Writer and director Parker Finn (Laura Hasn’t Slept 2020, The Hidebehind 2018) may be more known for his original horror shorts, but he covers more than just curses in his elevated horror film, Smile. The subject of mental health really hits home for me, and Smile successfully portrays a merger of survivors with trauma mixed with evil supernatural entities. So basically, it’s hell on Earth.

The Setup

Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon – Mare of Easttown, 13 Reasons Why) witnesses mental health deteriorating her mother to the point of suicide as a small child. This naturally propels her to grow up, working a passionate 80 hours a week in an emergency psychiatric unit.

One day as Rose was about to clock out, she takes one more emergency call for Laura Weaver (Caitlen Stasey – I, Frankenstein) who is being admitted for paranoid delusions. It’s revealed Laura recently witnessed a violent suicide. Rose is sincere and disarming with her approach, but assumes Laura is suffering from “acute post trauma psychosis.”

“It wears people’s faces like masks.” – Laura (Smile)

Laura claims she’s seeing something that nobody else sees. (‘Some… Thing’ William Shatner voice). Sometimes it’s a familiar person, a complete stranger, or even a dead relative, but they’re all the same, and they’re always smiling at her. This smile fills her with the worst fear she’s ever felt. It tells her things, and today it told her she’s going to die. Suddenly, Laura appears to have a manic episode and takes her own life with a piece of broken glass right in front of Dr. Rose Cotter while – you guessed it – smiling.

“It wasn’t so much the blood – It was her face, the way she looked.” – Rose (Smile)

After Laura’s suicide, Rose is questioned by Officer Joel (Kyle Gallner – Scream 2022, Red State 2011), who seems to have a romantic past with Rose. Rose begins to witness the smile Laura described on patients – distant strangers in windows – and is receiving phantom phone calls. Her fiancée Trevor (Jessie T Usher – Tales of the Walking Dead 2022) grows concerned about her behavior and mental health; he assumes she has some mental condition that’s heredity from her mother. What a gem of a guy.

Rose’s sister Holly (Gillian Zinser – The Guilty 2021, Savages 2012) begins to withdraw from her after Rose becomes unhinged at child’s birthday party. Who hasn’t been there?

“Because your mind is so interesting” – Entity voices (Smile)

Rose diagnoses herself as having visual and audio hallucinations due to post stress induced trauma. She attempts to get help from her psychiatrist Dr. Madeline Northcott, (Robin Weigert – Castle Rock, Big Little Lies) who helped her with the trauma of losing her mother to suicide. However, Dr. Madeline chalks this up to Laura’s suicide triggering Rose’s past trauma of her mother combined with stress from working too much. Gee, thanks Doc.  Here’s $500.

The visions become more unavoidable. Rose’s family and coworkers draw back from her more. She has become convinced she is cursed by this entity and is alone to figure it out. Rose desperately searches for patterns and solutions in random cases of violent suicides that left one witness that recalls a smile. Joel compromises his own beliefs in helping Rose find some answers.

Mentally haunted, emotionally defeated, and physically bloodied, Rose exiles herself for the safety of others while having to fear people that no one else can see smiling.  She believes it’s time to face her past and discover how powerful the mind really is in hopes to confront this smiling entity once and for all.

The Payoff

Smile has a very haunting premise full of low hanging fruit jump scares, but they were still fun. The progression of Rose’s smile curse even had me, at times, doubting her mental state. Poor Rose. Nothing like childhood trauma and spending your life working to amend that loss, to only then get cursed by an evil invisible entity and be abandoned by everyone because you sound like a “headcase.” I joke, but I honestly felt for Rose being casted out alone in her head with this curse. It symbolized to me how society deals with most things that are too difficult to stomach.

Like most horror fans, I did however figure out where this movie was heading by the second act. The harmonic sounds of distorted strings sounded great in the undoing of Rose’s life. I found the upside-down city scape and twirling cameras shots into the eyes of Rose and her mother a bit abstract, but they still provoked thoughts of an entity or trauma being transferred with an unsettling chaos.

I found the confrontation with the entity at the end the most rewarding, and special effects to be pretty metal. The acting was meh, but the eerie premise of smiles, and unhinged trauma was intense and enough to keep me engaged.

 

Smile – Final Thoughts

Smile had some great marketing that really set my expectations high. It was perhaps unfair on my part. As mentioned, it was bit predictable, however I still found it to be fun with an original idea. Combining real life horror of trauma and mental health with fictional paranormal evil curses is a terrifying combination, but a perfect recipe for an elevated horror. I look forward to seeing more of writer and director Parker Finn’s work. You can catch Smile on Paramount+ and On Demand right now. I’d love to know what you thought of the movie in the comments.

Check out the trailer below!

 

About Sean Stewart

Father. Artist. Writer. Horror Fanboy.

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