By: Michael Hlopko
“Smile” is a horror film by Paramount that delivers a plethora of scares throughout its runtime. Although I make a habit of watching horror movies, more than one could count, the film still managed to catch me off guard with one or two scares..
The film’s premise is simple: Dr. Rose Cotter, a therapist, witnesses an instantaneous behavioral change in a patient that is very sudden and unexpected, before ending her own life in a horrifying manner. After the incident, Rose begins to experience the same strange things that her patient hastily told her about before her death. The underlying factor to all of this is a figure smiling in a disturbing and unsettling way at her.
Just about every scare the movie throws at audiences is effective, although if you’re an avid watcher of horror films like myself you’ll probably see a few of them coming. That said, “Smile” is still a solid horror entry and worth a watch in theaters while it’s still showing.
(SPOILERS BELOW – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED)
The movie’s tone remains bleak and ambiguous throughout, which during my viewing I thought was a refreshing change compared to what most horror films today offer. By this I am referring to the same experience time and again, which is that the antagonizing force is identified in great detail, removing all ambiguity. That is, however, until one particular scene where Rose is conversing with her therapist at her home, until she receives a phone call from her therapist at the same time. The entity then speaks to her directly, which I considered to be the beginning of the film’s decline.
Toward the end of the film, the entity reveals its form to her in what’s supposed to be a big moment where Rose confronts the entity as well as her past which scarred her, but for me it was a large letdown. Ambiguity is thrown out the window in order to give audiences a “final scare” that doesn’t land like it should.
Call it nitpicking, but I believe the most effective kind of horror manifests from the feeling of the unknown. For three-quarters of “Smile,” Rose seems to know little to nothing about what it is she’s experiencing, although little by little she begins to unearth patterns as it showed that whatever it is that’s tormenting her had a long-dating history going back many years.
The film evolves from her questioning whether it’s a demon tormenting her, or if she truly is going crazy and experiencing all of it in her head. A problem arises when the movie throws away any pretense of mystery and reveals everything all at once, showing what the entity is in a frankly unsatisfying revelation.
“Smile” is still a solid film that is worth the money of admission. You most certainly should go see it if you’re in the mood for a good scare this spooky season.