Written and directed by Parker Finn, Smile tells the story of a young mental health professional, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), who sees paranormal phenomena after witnessing the suicide of one of her patients.
The creepy smiles of the trailers and film’s marketing have garnered it good buzz, but these gimmicks are about all the movie has to offer. The plot is essentially similar to Fallen (1998), a Denzel Washington film that features more intense scares and more interesting reflections on the themes.
Smile also doesn’t seem to understand its characters or its world. On a subtle, word level, many of the characters are mental health professionals who frequently use the stigmatizing word “crazy,” a term that most mental health professionals would avoid. I am not one to join the “word police,” but its use is a reflection of the film’s lack of verisimilitude or authenticity.
All the scares that weren’t in the trailer are jump scares, a cheap horror movie device that has run its course. While Bacon gives a good performance, most of the other characters are not given much to do aside from look concerned or dumbfounded, and the film fails to add much depth to the characters’ relationships. Dr. Cotter’s fiancé, Trevor (Jessie T. Usher), is under-utilized, and her police officer ex-boyfriend, Joel (Kyle Gallner), is primarily a plot device, a source to provide information that moves the story along; it surprised me when brief scene alludes to a deeper relationship between the characters, a thread left unexplored.
Smile is a cheap gimmick of a horror movie with almost no surprises in its plot or execution. During this Halloween season, there better horror movies available in theaters, including Barbarian and Pearl.