Smile. Quick Review.

Everyone has seen a trailer well their initial reaction is to go “well this looks stupid.” A prime contender for this viewer would be the 2022 horror hit Smile. A nurse (Sosie Bacon) witnesses a suicide that transfers a titular curse, whereby she is stoked by supposedly creepily smiling figures. As of yet no one has survived or broken a curse without killing themselves. You have seen this exact premise done to death across a wide variety of different horror subgenres. Except in a 2022 context it’s now infused with the modern jump scare and a central MacGuffin/ put device that looks more silly than creepy. Nevertheless, the trailers and marketing did suggest that Paramount would have a hit on their hands as this is the exact sort of thing that plays well with a mainstream horror crowd. So it has proved. Within the landscape of the downturn of a post-pandemic, box office Smile has been one of the few non-blockbuster bright spots. It’s fairly safe to assume that those behind it are now attempting to gleefully fast-track some variety of sequels but they can churn out as rush out as fast as possible. Even still this critic avoided the film for weeks thanks to the combination of not being a massive horror fan and the laughable trailer. With so little coming out as a theatrical exclusive in 2022 (and it looking to stay that way until Netflix and Amazon can get their way into the multiplexes) there was a weekend where Smile was the only thing available not already seen with this viewer’s unlimited pass. So this watcher went along begrudgingly but he did still have some level of open-mindedness. Surely it can’t be that bad?
it’s not. in part because Sosie Bacon delivers a central performance far too strong for the incredibly thin material and also because this in turn means the creative team taking the silly premise with some level of seriousness. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Despite Bacon’s committed work in the lead role to say this thing is “no plot, just jump scares” would actively be underselling how hard this thing relies on the most tired trope within modern horror. Jumpscares can be done effectively. There’s a superb one in Mike Flanigans The Haunting of Hill House and David Bruckner’s underseen The Night House features another decidedly memorable effort in the recent past. That said most jumpscare horror can be treated with a level of inane inevitability if one has seen enough of it. As soon as the audio drains out of the mix one simply waits for the 3…2…1 BOO to occur accompanied by a string of music before things reset and a cycle happens again. That is all Smile is. Relying on audiences’ investment within this brand of horror and expecting that the curse has some level of creep factor to it. Even in the moments throughout the film where there’s some effective build-up to a scare one knows tension will instantly deflate because the resolution always comes back to that stupid-looking smile. The creative team are committed to not nudging or winking at the audience which makes things innately much better but this is still extremely through the motions style modern horror.

Smile may not be as bad as the fiercely generic trailer suggests but that doesn’t mean it has anything new or interesting to offer. It’s also not difficult to see why it’s become a breakout post-pandemic horror hit. it’s the exact sort of meat and potatoes jumpscare horror that plays well in the mainstream. this author is not attempting to compare it to whatever variety of majorly overrated independent fair A24 put out this week. Filmmakers like Ari Aster and his ilk are some of the most overrated currently working. That said (especially with the strength of the performance) Smile is crying out to potentially have more meat on the bone than the most written collection of jumpscares humanly possible. Paramount are laughing all the way to the bank so they won’t care regardless.

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