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Movies & TV

27th Sep 2022

REVIEW: Smile delivers the first proper scares of this Halloween season

Rory Cashin

The first big horror movie of this year’s big screen spooky season has arrived.

Horrors love a good curse, especially a curse that can be passed along by person to person, like a fear-based virus.

Movies like The Ring, It Follows, Final Destination and The Grudge tap into the audience’s in-built fear of involuntarily catching something that is eventually going to kill them… something that certainly has become even more prominent in the last two years or so.

Smile is the latest entry in this virus-curse-horror genre, and it successfully overcomes its own bad title, TikTok-filter visuals and some very dodgy script moments to effectively become the first decent mainstream horror for this Halloween season.

Big Hollywood horrors have been pretty thin on the ground in 2022 – all we can immediately muster up is Scream and The Black Phone – so it is nice to see a movie like this will get the simultaneously screaming audience that it deserves… unless you’ve already watched the trailer. In which case, about 90% of the movie’s best chilling moments have already been ruined for you.

The plot centres around Dr. Rose Cotter (13 Reason Why’s Sosie Bacon) who witnesses her brand new patient talk about a smiling evil only they can see, but they apparently take their own life.

From then on, Rose finds herself haunted by that same smiling face in the days that follow, and she tries to get to the bottom of the mystery. Her boyfriend (The Boys’ Jessie T. Usher), boss (Kal Penn) and therapist (Deadwood’s Robin Weigert) think her own past trauma is causing some late blooming PTSD, so Rose turns to her cop ex-boyfriend (CSI: NY’s Kyle Gallner) to help further her investigations.

It turns out there is some sort of evil entity that is causing people to kill themselves in the most violent ways possible, and the sole witness of that suicide are destined to do the same in seven days time or less.

Clearly not the most original set-up for a scary movie, and while it doesn’t merge the worlds of horror and generational trauma quite as effectively as modern classic Hereditary, it does take a good swing at it.

Effectively supported by Bacon’s fantastic central performance, as well as some decently creepy visuals and uniquely uneasy score, it does get dinged quite a bit by poor scripting moments. So many supporting characters have an almost laughably antiquated view on mental illness, with one investigating cop referring to a recent victim as “a headcase” and “a proper loony” to that victim’s therapist. Subtlety is not on the agenda here, basically.

Writer/director Parker Finn adapts his own 11-minute short film Laura Hasn’t Slept (worth seeking out, by the way), but pads his debut feature out too long, with 115-minute runtime feeling about 20-minutes too long.

And, we really can’t say this enough, the trailer truly does spoil soooooooo many of the movie’s highlights. It is only in the very final act, a section of the film that the trailer seems to have avoided completely, that real tension and fear can ebb back in for anyone who has unfortunately already seen the teaser below. That finale is filled with some truly startling and scary imagery that will stay with you long after the end credits have finished rolling.

Smile arrives in Irish cinemas from Wednesday, 28 September.

Clip via Paramount UK

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