Film Review: Smile

Give Us A Smile, Darlin’

Close up of woman smiling. Still from Smile.

The first you heard of Smile may have been via the clever marketing that took place the weekend before the film’s launch in September last year. During several Major League Baseball games, the studio bought seats behind the home plate and positioned actors instructed to smile maniacally into the camera for the pitcher-batter shot (some of whom wore shirts with the name and logo of the film).

Smile represents Parker Finn’s directorial debut, following the increasingly well-worn path of expanding on a previous short film (Laura Hasn’t Slept) and bringing along actress Caitlin Stasey, playing the same part she played in the original.

Man sitting on a bed Smiling at the camera. Still from Smile.

It’s an impressive first feature from Finn, contributing to what feels like a particular line of psychological horrors starting with The Ring and then continuing through The Babadook and It Follows.

It does a good job of cultivating an ever-present – and growing – sense of dread. Even though you could take a guess at where it’s going from early on, the progression remains powerful and taut. Special mention goes to a particular jump-scare that Finn cleverly manages to deliver without us seeing it coming!

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Paramount Pictures were originally going to condemn Smile to a streaming-only release on Paramount+, but the studio decided to gamble on a theatrical release because of strong results from test screenings. That proved to be a good bet because the film went on to make a worldwide gross of $216.1 million, as well as becoming the highest-grossing R-rated horror film worldwide during the pandemic era.

Woman holding a phone looking scared. Still from Smile.

Are we getting a sequel?

Finn has been cagey about that, but has said; “I wanted the movie to really exist for its own sake. I wanted to tell this character’s story. That was what was really important to me. I think there’s a lot of fun to be had in the world of Smile. But certainly, as a filmmaker, I never want to re-tread anything I’ve already done. So if there was ever to be more of Smile, I’d want to make sure it was something unexpected, and different than what Smile is.”

So it looks like there could yet be more smirks to come.

By: Todd Richard Feely

Smile is available to rent and buy on digital