Monday, April 8, 2024

Film Review: Smile (2022)


The photography of the opening of Smile is anything but horror-like, which is why it has this instant appeal for anyone who is both into and not into the same genre. Instead of dark, brooding, and partially lit spaces, Smile offers strong colors and crisp, airy environments, reminiscent of an IKEA showroom. If, that is to say, IKEA furnished mental institutions for potentially dangerous patients.

Here, not long after that, the first suicide takes place. With that, along with strong visuals and with too much meandering, the first-time feature film director Parker Finn and the movie itself establish an atmosphere of almost nightmare-like reality for its main character.

That setting is the basis of one of the more interesting horror releases in recent years. As the plot follows a psychiatrist who witnessed a violent death and becomes infected by the potential for a similar fate, the director focuses more on the feel of the movie and less on its internal logic or its progression.

That formula works marvelously well most of the time, especially in tying into concepts like personal trauma. A decade before, films like The Babadook did something similar but with a more conservative budget. In the case of Smile, money was there and some of it did go to elements that we regularly see in horror films. But, for me, it made no difference that the plot used a lot of time-is-running-out tropes present in films like The Ring or The Final Destination. It also helps that throughout the film both Sosie Bacon and Kyle Gallner do a great and convincing job as the lead roles.

The world of cinema learned time and time again that for works that embrace a genre strongly, the level of manifested originality is often irrelevant. But, it also has to be said that Smile somewhat struggles at the very end, where a simple script modification would have allowed for a much more satisfying and logical finale. However, we also have to forgive that to Parker Finn, knowing that there is a squeal in the works. After all, what is more appropriate for the horror genre than the idea of turning a single film into a series?