Combustible Celluloid Review - Smile (2022), Parker Finn, Parker Finn, Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Robin Weigert, Jessie T. Usher, Kal Penn, Judy Reyes, Kevin Keppy, Rob Morgan, Gillian Zinser
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With: Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Robin Weigert, Jessie T. Usher, Kal Penn, Judy Reyes, Kevin Keppy, Rob Morgan, Gillian Zinser
Written by: Parker Finn
Directed by: Parker Finn
MPAA Rating: R for strong violent content and grisly images, and language
Running Time: 115
Date: 09/30/2022

Smile (2022)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Grin Off

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The image of a creepy, sinister smile is so primal and so chilling that it might have inspired something truly penetrating, but sadly, Parker Finn's Smile is content to fall back on noisy jump-scares.

Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), a psychiatrist, has been working a long shift, and is just about to go home when she agrees to see a distraught patient, Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey). Laura claims that she's being followed by some malevolent force that appears to her in different bodies, all of them smiling sinister smiles. While talking, she suddenly screams, goes quiet, a smile appears on her face, and she slices her own throat.

Not long after, Rose begins seeing things herself. She enlists the help of her ex, Joel (Kyle Gallner), the police detective assigned to Laura's case, to learn more. They discover that there's a pattern, going back twenty victims, each one of them a witness to a previous suicide. Then, Rose gets the idea that, as long as she's alone, no one can witness her death by suicide, and then the curse does not get passed on. She heads up to a remote cabin in the woods for a showdown with the thing responsible.

A feature writing and directing debut, Smile is not without its spine-tingles, but they're few and fleeting, as the movie treads through a collection of well-worn cliches. The idea of a curse passed from one person to another has been better used in Final Destination, The Ring, It Follows, and more; when that idea succeeds, it's because the evil force remains a mystery. Here, it's explained and detailed down to the last bit, revealing the monster as a stringy-haired thing (just like in The Ring) that is up to no good. Cheap, cacophonous jump-scares accompany its every move.

The typical, frantic race against time to find a way to break the curse is here, too, but the long, overnight drive to a prison to speak to the one man who managed to survive, is a complete waste of time; nothing is learned that we didn't already know. (The movie's bulky 115 minutes could have used some trimming.) It even uses the old "upside-down-drone-shot" driving footage that was featured in Midsommar and other movies.

Most of the heavy lifting in Smile is handed to performer Bacon, whose descent into madness — everyone she encounters calls her "crazy" — is ultimately more wearying rather than touching. Even the smile itself, used so effectively in the opening sequence, is wasted throughout the rest of the movie. It leaves off with the potential for a sequel, but this entry is already pretty sparse, like a mouth without teeth.

Paramount released a deluxe Blu-ray edition with bonus digital copy. It includes a Dolby Atmos sound mix, plus several language tracks and optional subtitles. The image transfer is excellent. Bonuses include a commentary track with director Finn, deleted scenes with optional commentary (12 minutes), a half-hour featurette on the making of the film and a shorter featurette, demonstrating the techniques behind the music score (9 minutes), plus Finn's original 11-minute short film, Laura Hasn't Slept, that inspired the feature.

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