Popcorn Picks: “Smile” is a Horrifying Experience With a Sour Ending


Photo credit/ Jennifer Flynn

When the trailers for “Smile” came out, I did not care for it. I thought it was simply another PG-13 CGI “horror movie”, such as “Truth or Dare”, with a very similar concept. The only reason I saw the movie was because a friend of mine wanted to see it.

But within the first few minutes, I was proven very wrong. This movie is bloody, violent, and above all, terrifying.

“Smile” tells the story of Dr. Rosie Cotter, a doctor at a mental hospital. Her life takes a turn when one of her patients brutally kills herself after telling her stories of people “smiling at her”. Soon after, Cotter begins also seeing people smiling at her. However, smiling is not all this entity does to her. The entity begins to destroy her credibility as well as her social life with disturbing and unexplainable incidents to make her look insane.

The scares in “Smile” are genuine and don’t simply rely on the smiles themselves. It’s more similar to 2017’s “It” with the red balloon– the smile isn’t the scare, it simply builds up to the scare.

“Smile” was directed by Parker Finn in his directorial debut. With this being his first movie, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for him and his crew.

The supporting cast is excellent. Everyone involved brought their A-game and, thanks to this, the acting throughout is solid. The emotions feel genuine as well as the stunning cinematography from Charlie Sarroff. The scoring from Cristobal Tapia de Veer is haunting and always leaves you on edge, even when it’s playing over the credits.

However, the ending to the movie leaves a trail of confusion and even dread in its wake. This, of course, is when we enter spoiler-territory.

In the end of the movie, Cotter returns to her childhood home where she confronts the demon haunting her and it seems like she defeated it. Returning to her ex-boyfriend Kyle and confessing that she still has feelings for him, the ending seems to be an upbeat one about overcoming trauma and giving survivors hope. However, that hopeful ending is ripped away as we find ourselves back with the demon and Kyle having found Cotter and attempting to save her. However, it’s too late as the demon has possessed her and, with Kyle watching in horror, Cotter douses herself with gasoline and bursts into flames with a smile on her face, thus continuing the curse with Kyle being the witness.

This ending left a bad taste in my mouth and I wasn’t the only one. Across social media, viewers have commented on this ending, specifically those with PTSD, who seem to be the movie’s target audience.

So, what’s the message? That the trauma is inescapable? That it can’t be overcome? That it will kill you no matter what you try to do? That it will destroy your life and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it?

That seems to be the case, and that really hurts what otherwise is a terrific horror movie. If the movie just cut to black right before we’re sent back to the demon, this movie would score much higher for me. But, unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

“Smile”, while having an excellent premise and an almost-great execution, the ending damages the whole thing in my opinion and leaves the overall theme missing. But that didn’t change the fact that I mostly enjoyed the movie and I would recommend it to others. At home. With the lights on. With caution to those with PTSD.

Rating: 6.5/10 kernels.

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