*Spoiler Alert and Trigger Warning: This article contains spoilers from the movie “Smile” as well as speaks about suicide and gruesome content.
I don’t know what I expected when I chose to watch a horror movie named “Smile,” considering the name is an oxymoron. The movie took the media by storm when advertisers would sit in the audience of baseball games and even the Today Show, creepily smiling at the cameras on set without breaking character. And now that it’s finally on Paramount+, I got to see what it was all about. I wouldn’t say I regret watching it, as it had a great plot and was filmed perfectly, but some scenes were just too violent for me.
“Smile” follows Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), a therapist who immediately witnesses a traumatic event. A patient named Laura (Caitlin Stasey) comes into her office claiming she is seeing things that “look like people, but aren’t.” Almost immediately, Laura commits a very violent suicide with a shard of glass as she smiles and doesn’t break eye contact with Dr. Cotter. The so-called curse immediately sets in over Dr. Cotter’s head, and she only has a few days until the same event happens to her. We know it’s a curse rather than a common sickness because before Laura dies, she warns Dr. Cotter of what she’ll now go through.
Throughout the course of the movie, Dr. Cotter dives deeper into the lore of the smiling hallucinations to figure out a way to save herself and others going through the same cycle of violence. Without any answers and this sickness being a ticking time bomb, Dr. Cotter only has so long to prevent them from hurting themselves and others. It’s easily one of the most suspenseful horror movies I’ve seen in the past year, in line with The Black Phone (2021).
The most gruesome part of the movie is how realistic the deaths look, including the death of Dr. Cotter’s cat, Mustache. The eerie score and ominous, cool-toned filming gave me chills in a lot of scenes, specifically the ones in which other people are infected with the hallucinations and commit suicide or homicide. It’s almost as if the screenwriter sat down and listed off the worst ways someone could die and incorporated all of them in the film. I will always appreciate a real horror film, but something about this one made the death scenes difficult to sit through. But this makes sense, as we saw the world through the eyes of those cursed with these hallucinations.
I could have gone with one or two deaths and the rest of the movie being Dr. Cotter saving herself. The hallucinations that we saw through the patients’ eyes and Dr. Cotter’s were scary enough, to say the least. And to be fair, the movie was based on the director’s 11-minute short that won an award at SXSW in 2020. So the plot was stretched and you could tell, being the one fatal flaw of “Smile.”
By the end of watching “Smile,” I still wasn’t used to the amount of jumpscares from the hallucinations. It was as though I could feel the psycho eyes of the smiling people staring into my soul through the television. And that was a job well done, as I was terrified without any dialogue, merely the stares and smiles- an expression that is usually upbeat. This film definitely isn’t for the faint hearted or those with a weak stomach. “Smile” is not your average horror film, but definitely is worth the watch if you are prepared with what’s to come.
“Smile” is available for streaming on Paramount+.
By Amena Ahmed