Unsettling & Unpleasant ‘Smile’ is Also Deadly … Boring

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Rating: 0.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Smile is unsettling and deeply unpleasant … its whole reason for being is to be unsettling and deeply unpleasant. And in that regard, it worked. I was uncomfortable sitting in a theater as these images flashed across the screen. But you know what else I was? Bored. The first kill happens around the 15 minute mark, and I know that because I was already checking my watch at that point.

The main character is an overworked therapist named Doctor Cotter (Sosie Bacon) at a run down psychiatric hospital. Still troubled by her own mother’s suicide years earlier, she provides help to the poor and in need. But the Cotter is traumatized all over again when a patient tells her about frightening images she’s been seeing.

Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

The patient then takes her own life with a grin that would make Jack Nicholson’s Joker look positively friendly by comparison. Soon enough the good doctor is seeing the same things her patient talked about and figures out she’s being haunted. She soon figures out the deaths all follow a pattern, and begins criss crossing New Jersey trying to cheat her own death.

The image of a person with a sinister grin is admittedly creepy, but the filmmakers inspiration seems to begin and end on that point. “Smile” is a one trick pony that bludgeons its audience over and over by hitting the same one note – again and again and again – until it ceases to scare, ceases to interest and finally mercifully the film ceases. It’s just pure torture getting there because this film stretches on for an interminable 115 minutes.

Sosie Bacon as Doctor Cotter is serviceable, but the rest of the cast performances range from merely bad to atrocious. Cotter’s nutty patients all seem afflicted, not by a demon, but a fatal case of overacting. Writer/director Parker Finn ham-handedly lays on weird camera angles, and frequently positions the world upside down in an effort to keep the audience off balance … but to what end? He settles for a series of cheap jump scares, and dreaded dream sequences that only serve to prolong the suffering. Good horror movies can still work even if it doesn’t have any particularly memorable characters, but this one comes up empty in all regards.

Grim Grin in ‘Smile’
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

“Smile” doesn’t have anything to say. It doesn’t have a clue about mental illness, demons, suspense, tension, or storytelling – it has no reason to be. It’s an ugly, out of focus, hackneyed, incompetent, pointless, and worthless project. I wanted to flee the theater and then seriously ponder what I was doing giving two hours of my life to such an unrelentingly grim and yucky enterprise. Smile is, in a word, dreadful.

“Smile” opens in theaters on September 30th. Featuring Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Jesse T. Usher, Robin Weigert and Kal Penn. Written and directed by Parker Finn. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


© 2022 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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