Are you looking for a horror movie to get you started for the month? It is after all October, the month of scares. While we do get movies in the said genre all year round, there is something different that occurs when we get scary movies for this month. The first horror film that was on our list according to release date was Smile which so happens to be the very topic of this particular review.
Smile Review: Overview
Smile revolves around a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Rose Cotter, played by Sosie Bacon. One faithful day she encounters a hysterical young woman as a patient who had just witnessed the supposed suicide of a college professor. She claims to see a demonic being that takes the form of practically anyone while bolstering an extremely creepy smile. The young woman’s encounter and hysteria with Dr. Cotter, lead her to eventually killing herself just like what had occurred with the professor’s suicide. As the film progresses we learn that there seems to be a repetitive curse-like phenomenon wherein each person who witnesses the suicide of another, that said witness will be the next victim and all of these are caused by an unknown demonic entity. This being taps into the mind of its victims causing the aforementioned evil/demonic smile while also being able to cause delusions and hallucinations. Dr. Cotter finds herself caught in the very middle of the said curse as she must figure out how to beat this malicious entity before it’s too late.
Smile Review: Spoiler Warnings
We will keep this review of Smile free from spoilers as we will focus the discussion on the scare factor, acting, and the film’s premise as a whole.
Jump Scares Done Right
Smile manages to be pretty horrifying. Let me clarify this, however. It isn’t the type of film that will keep you up all night long. May to an extent it can be but the horrifying nature of the film truly comes while you watch Smile. It comes in two primary ways. The first is the creepy nature of the premise — the smiles. It initially sounded ironic and weird. A horror film is entitled Smile. The film’s poster, trailer, and the movie itself proved it all wrong. I realized that there truly is a creepy side to smiling. We all have that slight look when we smile at times that may produce something altogether creepy rather than excitement or joy. The second aspect where Smile was able to draw in the horror factor the most was its jump scares.
Jump scares have honestly been deemed as a somewhat negative technique in filmmaking. It has been described as lazy and just as a means to elicit sudden jolts or scares. Smile however doesn’t follow the typical methods of creating jump scares. The film has the ability to really catch you off guard and really hit you hard with terrifying, jump-out-of-your-seats-and-scream moments. One of the scenes that really got me and to be honest was my absolute favorite was the moment when Dr. Cotter was listening on and on to a recording of her encounter with the Ph.D. student. She seems to hear something very faint from the recording which we as audiences could also faintly hear. All of a sudden a huge jump scare occurs. It was a simple technique but one that can truly catch viewers off guard. It happens quickly but perfectly as well while having no signs of how the scare technique would play out — no scary music and hint as to how the actual scare would work but it just does.
A Horrifying Tale
The jump scare however as again mentioned, are just a vehicles for the entire frightening aspect of the story to take center stage. The story in itself is very horrifying given that it dives deep into mental health issues and psychiatry. This is what I actually enjoyed about the film as a horror movie. It paints a frightening reality that was explained simply twice or so in the movie — “Why won’t anyone believe me?”. This is the scariest part of the story of Smile. It really isn’t the demon or what it causes people to do, to be honest, that makes it horrifying but that the film first and foremost showcases delirium. Most of the events tend to become confusing as to our vantage point as audiences and whether they are real or a figment of our character’s imagination and hysteria. This manner of storytelling is also a trope in horror films which Smile admittedly has a lot of. A lot of horror films play with this technique of painting reality and imagination and throwing us as audiences off guard with what is truly occurring at the exact moment. Smile does this perfectly. It has a lot of moments that make us question everything that occurs all the way until the very end which truth be told is a pretty great ending for the film as well despite its cliffhanger-y status.
As mentioned, Smile gets a lot of its premise from past films in the same genre. The film has similarities to It Follows as a spiritual entity torments the doctor and those closest to her. This is your typical horror movie storyline which admittedly didn’t bother me as much as the next horror story element that I am to discuss. The main character being followed and tortured by an evil spirit isn’t something all that new and is in fact something that is pretty common in the genre. It’s when you add elements of The Ring however which Smile does so almost to a t, is when I am left somewhat bothered by the plain blank and outright duplication. The story for the most part had the makings of becoming a very interesting, simple, and direct-to-the-point horror tale. It suddenly changes in pacing when the solution to all the creepy visitation presents itself. The cursed must trade his or her own life for another. It requires outright murder even. This shift is very similar to so many other films like the aforementioned The Ring as well as The Final Destination and even Truth or Dare.
Despite the familiarity however and the copycat nature of Smile the film still manages to succeed due to the production value. There are moments that prove to be absolutely well done in terms of the special effects and even costume designs. Usually, when it comes to spiritual entities, aliens or even zombies in horror films, the creation of such characters may be a risky win-or-lose situation. It’s not always a guarantee of success. Smile for some reason actually manages to get it right. The “creature”/supernatural being doesn’t show up until the latter parts of the film but it was actually pretty well done and cool to witness. The overall production and creation of confusing delirious sequences matched perfectly with Sosie Bacon’s acting performance which admittedly was our personal highlight in this film. It was my first time really watching Sosie Bacon act and I must admit that I was very much pleased by the transformation that she goes through in this film which perfectly showcases the brilliant acting and character development of Dr. Cotter. She transforms right before our eyes as the voice of reason and rationality to someone who we come to realize has her own set of baggage as well.
Smile Review: Final Verdict
Smile is a great horrifyingly good film that is perfect for the month of October — in time for Halloween. It has the right balance of direction, flow, and scares that don’t overpower each other. The film also has a top-notch production quality which amps up the film as a whole by ensuring that it’s far from just another B horror film. We actually recommend that you check Smile out because in its simplicity it manages to provide enough great scares while being able to anchor itself on very relevant and important themes such as mental health.
Hype Meter: 7/10
Check out Smile now while it’s still showing in select theaters here in the Philippines.
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