You ever see a movie and just assume it’s not going to be good? Smile is all about creepy smiles! Oooh, I’m shaking in my boots… Plus, they showed what is most likely the best jumpscare in the trailer–if you know, you know–so what else is there? But I heard reviews were rather positive for this film. Was it actually worth watching? Or did it make me hate myself like that awful, awful movie Smiley? Writers call that a hook!
The film follows Rose (Ms. Sosie Bacon, and yes, she’s Kevin Bacon’s daughter), a therapist working in a mental health ward. One day a patient comes in saying that some kind of evil entity has been tormenting her since she saw her professor commit suicide, and the session abruptly ends with the patient killing herself in front of Rose. Now Rose is being tormented! Can’t say it’s directly stealing from It Follows, but the vibes are along those lines. With help from her ex, a cop named Joel (Kyle Gallner, AKA Colin from Jennifer’s Body), Rose finds out that there’s a pattern to these horrible events, all leading to someone killing themselves in a gruesome way in front of someone else within a week. So we got some Ring thrown in for good measure. But what exactly is Rose seeing? People smiling creepily at her! Oooh… So spooky.
Okay, enough of the downplaying; this movie is actually good. Sure, on paper the premise seems a little thin, but the creepy atmosphere and good editing really hammers things home. Also, it’s more than just smiling. For example, Rose’s cat is killed and placed in the present meant for her nephew. Did the entity–not a ghost–do that? Is Rose just going insane just like her mom did? Something in between? The movie keeps a lot of that vague, but it does lean into “there’s a demonic being behind it all” with too many occurrences to be played off as coincidences. But it does seem to target people who have previously seen someone die in front of them, so that’s not nothing! Also, Rose learns that the chain can sort of be broken if she kills someone instead of killing herself, but that’s only entertained as a possibility for like 10 minutes, or roughly the duration of one hallucination.
In the end Rose figures out that this (for lack of a better word) entity needs an audience and sequesters herself in the home where her mom died. Or rather, as her guilt has telling her, the house where she let her mom die. The demon is defeated thanks to Rose’s willpower, and she escapes to… no. Uh-uh. I don’t believe she escaped for a second. Throughout the movie she’d been shockingly incapable of realizing she’s sounding like a madwoman, so a sudden burst of inner strength at the end sounds like a fakeout. Sure enough, the demon’s just fucking with her and the film ends with Rose–possessed and smiling creepily–setting herself on fire in front of Joel. The cycle continues. Much like abuse! I’m sure a smarter person could write something good about that. Too bad you all have a moron like me that can only think of ending this by reiterating: it’s good!
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