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John’s Horror Corner: Smile (2022), a very well-made, pleasant surprise rich in creepiness and fun startling jumpiness.

December 7, 2022

MY CALL: Very well-made, very well-produced, very entertaining, very creepy movie. It wasn’t riveting or wowing. But it is a solid popcorn horror good for jumps, atmosphere, creep factor and gore. MORE MOVIES LIKE Smile: Lights Out (2016) is another highly satisfying, very jumpy and creepy, well-executed popcorn horror.

After witnessing the death of our first victim (Caitlin Stasey; All Cheerleaders Die) I am awash with awkward tension. A woman with an almost too big of a smile lacerates her face and throat, never breaking her intense smiling gaze while bleeding a river down her chest. Scenes like this are not rare in horror. But with the excellent performances of the entire cast, on-point editing and solid direction, the execution is what makes it so strong. And there’s a great strength of this horror film, it’s very well-produced and intuitively executed. Everything makes for an unnervingly creepy atmosphere, and I enjoy basking in it, awaiting my next startle.

After witnessing this suicide in the middle of an emergency psychiatric assessment, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon; 13 Reasons Why) is haunted by exaggerated sinister smiles that gradually drive her insane. But as she clings to her remaining sanity, she must learn the reason and pattern behind the suicide she witnessed so that she can escape the same fate macabrely grinning fate. All the while her boss (Kal Penn; American Horror Story) and husband (Jessie T. Usher; The Boys) offer no aid or understanding of her unique malady, so she reluctantly accepts the help of her detective ex-boyfriend (Kyle Gallner; The Cleansing Hour, The Cleanse, Jennifer’s Body).

What unravels is a pattern of death much like The Ring (2002), One Missed Call (2008) or It Follows (2015). The polymorphism of our evil entity harkens of It Follows (2015), whereas its appearance is unmistakably similar to the demonic possessions in Truth or Dare (2018). And while nothing about this film feels unique, creative or especially different, it’s just made so well! And therein is what makes it feel fresh to the genre.

The visuals are effective. We enjoy one of the most mangled faces since that first victim in The Ring (2002), one of the most pendular neck swings since Terrified (2017), a gangly-limbed horror, an outstanding and gory face peeling scene, and a variety of other shocking imagery. The gore is just frequent enough, and the gaps therebetween are compensated by tactful, well-executed jump scares after slow builds in tension.

Writer and director Parker Finn’s first feature film is a creepy, jumpy success, whose greatest strength is execution. I was quite entertained by this very well-made, very well-produced, very creepy movie. It wasn’t riveting or wowing. But it is a solid popcorn horror good for jumps, atmosphere, creep factor and gore. More importantly, I can’t wait to see what Parker Finn does next!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2022 8:33 am

    Thanks for the review on this one. I’ve read some good things about it and will bump it to the top of my list.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      December 9, 2022 7:46 am

      Most I’ve read has been positive. Not rave, but more like my own “this was a pleasant surprise” review. However, one person on IG was commented on my review that they found it very boring. Not sure what kind of rollercoaster expectations they had. I was pleased with the pacing.

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