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Review: 'Smile' is a bit familiar, but still a good scare

Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2022 at 4:48 PM Central
Last updated Tuesday, December 13, 2022 at 4:54 PM Central

by John Couture

As most of you know by now, my daughter and I record a horror podcast, so any chance to review a horror film allows us to watch it together. This was the case when the opportunity to review Smile came up.

I'm a huge horror nerd and I had been hearing so many good things about Smile, I was sure that my review would be glowing. Well, I wouldn't go so far as to call it glowing, but there were a few derivative moments that made me wonder what all the fuss was about.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I would adjust your expectations if you're expecting something as revolutionary as Nope or Pearl. Still, Smile was a decent watch and a worthy addition to the annals of horror.

After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can't explain. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.

Before we get into anything even remotely negative, I wanted to make sure that I heap praise on writer-director Parker Finn who made his feature film debut with Smile, and actress Sosie Bacon who carries the lion's share of the film. What makes Smile such a success derives mostly from their passion and it's clear that their careers are about to go supernova.

The daughter of thespians Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, you could say that Sosie's path was predetermined, but that's not entirely true. While she had bit parts here and there mostly in her parents' films/shows, at age 30 she is just now making a name for herself and it's quite apparent that the exceptional acting genes in her family didn't skip a generation.

Given that Sosie is practically in every scene in the movie, having someone capable enough to carry the complex storyline was crucial. Thankfully, Sosie is more than up to the challenge. In fact, as I watched the movie, I hadn't yet made the connection as to who her famous parents are (you'd think the whole "Bacon" last name would have been a clue - oops) and I was dumbfounded as to why I hadn't heard of her before.

It turns out that she's been a well-kept secret around Hollywood for years and we're just being let into the cool club. As for Parker Finn, Smile is based on his short film "Laura Hasn't Slept" and the actress that played Laura in that reprises her role for Smile.

Many times when you try and expand a short film into a feature-length movie, you lose the spirit of the original, but by all accounts Smile maintains that unique independent spirit that made the original such a fan favorite. But, I didn't find everything to be perfect.

For me, the story felt a little derivative from other horror movies that came before it. Specifically, I found elements from The Ring and Final Destination echoing in Smile. It's not enough that it put me off the movie entirely, but it was noticeable to me.

To be fair, my daughter who hasn't seen either of those earlier films yet, found the story to be unique and compelling. But, she's 11 and new to this whole horror thing, so I'll forgive her.

Also, I found the ending to be a bit obvious and lacking. I mean, they spend a great deal of the movie walking a tightrope between the supernatural and hallucinations, and then they simply rush the finale. I didn't hate it, but I was really hoping that they'd at least lean into the other idea a bit more at the end.

And no, I'm not going to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say, there were a few guffaws from me at this point in our watch party. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Finn wasn't intending his ending to be comical. But hey, that's just me.

Your mileage can and most likely will vary. I wouldn't let the soft ending discourage you because there are just so many wonderful things in the buildup that I'm very keen to see what is next for Parker Finn.

Smile is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD.