Starring: Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Jessie T. Usher, Robin Weigert, Kal Penn, and Rob Morgan
Director: Parker Finn
The biggest success story of 2022 in film (Maverick notwithstanding) has to be that of Paramount Pictures. Smile is yet another win on their ever-growing board of hits for this year, led by an engaging lead performance from Sosie Bacon with standout supporting work from Jessie T. Usher and Kyle Gallner. The film’s themes of trauma and the process of unpacking it work well also, as it doesn’t use trauma as a mere boogeyman to be overcome. It is a little jump-scare heavy when it can afford to be more atmospheric, but the scares themselves are nonetheless effective.
With its super creepy premise (and brilliant marketing campaign at baseball games), I was hoping Smile might go down as one of the year’s better horror offerings. While it admittedly does a great job at jump scares (mostly due to obnoxiously loud and well-timed music) and creepy imagery, the story is ripped from much better movies. It’s part It Follows, part Fallen, but weaker than both. Meanwhile, the “this horror represents personal trauma” angle (somewhat) resolves itself in a way that is laughably heavy-handed. All that said, if the teased sequel does what it teases, I wouldn’t be opposed to giving it go.