13 June 2024
Sosie Baon in Smile

Film Review – Smile (2022)

While the debate continues to rage about the lifespan of theatrical cinema, streaming and whether the box office as we know it is changed forever, Paramount (aside from Disney, given their monopoly on such things) has stormed back in 2022 with a massively successful year. Theatrical isn’t dead, not if the studio has anything to do with it. Earlier this year, Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Scream (5), Jackass Forever, and The Lost City became huge successes while Tom Cruise and co soared in with Top Gun: Maverick, with its sensational, unprecedented gross now standing at a whopping $1.5billion.

Give the people something to seek out and they will come, and now the studio is unleashing Smile. The eerie new horror film has already stirred much interest, thanks largely to its fantastic marketing campaign that has seen normal folk smile creepily behind US talk show hosts or at baseball games on the big screen. And, if nothing else, when done right horror will always sell, and Parker Finn‘s assured, unsettling debut is going to go down a storm. There’s nothing necessarily new or enlightening here, borrowing from a plethora of other films of its ilk, but what it does it does fantastically well and contains some of the year’s most terrifying scares.

Dr. Rose Cutter (Sosie Bacon, only one degree away from Kevin Bacon) is a successful psychiatric doctor who, after a terrifying incident when a patient commits suicide in front of her whilst smiling sadistically, begins to have visions that something, or someone, is leading her down a similar, and fatal, path. Taking its premise from Finn‘s earlier short film, Laura Hasn’t Slept, it places the director firmly in the “one to watch” category with such a strong opening salvo. It’s not without its flaws: alongside those stronger jumpy moments are some extremely corny ones that fall the wrong side of what it was perhaps aiming for, and at a somewhat overly expansive two hours (thereabouts) it undoes a lot of its brilliance by being too indulgent in its conceit.

As a scary night at the movies, it will please general audiences no-end, but it’s in its delicate, haunting, and, at times, moving delve into the human psyche when dealing with the painful, terrifying fall down the rabbit hole of grief and trauma that will win it its most fans. Bacon‘s complex central turn is key to its success, as are Charlie Sarroff‘s topsy-turvy, uneasy cinematography, Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s unsettling score, and his sound team’s design, all of whom are exemplary in their execution of Finn’s ultimate goal in making us all smile. Whether gleefully or creepily is up to you.

★★★


Horror | 2022 | Paramount Pictures UK | Theatrical | Dir: Parker Finn | Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Rob Morgan, Kal Penn


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