review by Michael Fraley
As October nears every year, a new crop of horror movies comes to theaters hoping to offer up new screams and scares. One of this year’s entries is Smile written and directed by Parker Finn and stars Sosie Bacon, Jessie Usher, and Kyle Gallner. I’ve been looking forward to this one since the quick sneak peek that was put before Maverick this summer. Something about the creepy look of the smiles had me hooked and hoping not to be disappointed, so the real question was, once it hit the theater would it be worth smiling about.
Smile began as a direct to streaming feature, but due to better than expected screenings, it was given the full theatrical push. Aside from the quick peek before Maverick, they also did some wonderful viral marketing by having people in various places, like the window on Good Morning America and behind home plate at baseballs games, staring at the camera with that eerie smile from the trailer and wearing a Smile shirt.
The movie follows Dr. Rose Cotter, whose life and sanity start to unravel after a patient commits suicide in front of her. Everything starts to spiral out of control as she begins to see the smile everywhere she looks and nothing is ever as it seems. The spiral continues as she begins to investigate the girl’s suicide and the events that eventually led her to Rose. As she digs deeper, trying to not only prove to everyone around her that she isn’t crazy, but to save her own life, demons from her past come charging in as well.
Rose is played by Sosie Bacon, and this is her movie. She does an amazing job portraying her descent into madness. Her expressions and body language pull you into what she’s going through and helps really drive the experience home.
The rest of the cast, not so much. Jessie T Usher and Kal Penn seem completely out of place here. Neither is given much to do, and that’s really a good thing since they both just seem so miscast. Robin Weigert does a good job as Rose’s former psychiatrist, and Kyle Gallner lends some emotional support as Rose’s former love interest and the one she turns to for help investigating the suicide, but Bacon is given the heaviest load to carry, and she does it wonderfully.
The real star here might be the score and sound. This is definitely a theater movie, or one that needs to be watched with a decent sound system at home. Whispers and other strange noises and misdirects come from all around, and the discordant score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer is almost a character of its own.
As far as the movie and the story, there’s nothing new here, but it does some original things that keep it engaging for its almost two hour run time. You’ll feel the inspiration from some other well-known films here that were meshed together to try for something different. There’s plenty of jump scares and some very creepy visuals. It is a slow burn at times as the story pushes forward, but the director never lets it go for too long without something popping up
Though it wasn’t everything I had hoped for, the story and Bacon’s acting were enough to keep my interest piqued. It never feels overly long, and the scares are there, and not always where you expect them. It should be enough to turn any frown upside down. Plus it’s not a sequel, remake, or reboot, so we need to support originality every chance we can.
In addition to the film this release offers up bonus content including commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and more. Grab your copy of Smile available now on digital, 4K, Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment.