Movie Review: ‘Smile’ Kept Me On The Edge Of My Seat


Poster courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Editors’ Note: This article discusses self-harm and death by suicide in the context of media, as well as containing detailed spoilers for Smile.

Smile 2022, directed by Parker Finn, left me in shock.

When the credits rolled and the lights came back on in the theater, I found myself glued to my seat. My hands gripped the armchairs, and my eyes were wide-open in disbelief.

I had seen advertisements for the movie all over social media, and I felt inclined to watch it. All the videos I had seen had highlighted reviews like, “I can’t believe what I just watched” or “I’m in shock from this movie.” So, I figured I would find out what the hype for Smile was all about.

The movie started off pretty standard, with a therapist receiving a new patient. But the audience quickly learns that something is different.

At first, the therapist, Rose, is having a controlled conversation with her patient. Suddenly, the patient sees something behind Rose. She starts screaming and choking for unclear reasons, though it looks as if  something is strangling her. Rose turns around to call emergency services, and when she turns back, her patient is no longer in distress. She simply stands there, smiling. Then, she takes a piece of a broken lampshade and kills herself.

Most horror movies will imply that a character has committed suicide, but the fact that the camera stays on the patient as she’s cutting herself adds another level of horror. In It: Chapter 2, 2019, the camera shows a picture of Stanley dead in the bathtub, but it never shows him slitting his wrists.

Displaying vivid self-harm can trigger some audience members, and many directors choose not to display such graphic images.

After her patient dies, Rose is visibly shaken by the event. Yet, she is able to calm herself and resume her life. It is not until she starts to see things that she starts to freak out.

The movie also does an incredible job with jump scares—not just real jump scares, but also fakeouts, when it seems that a character is in imitate danger, but nothing scary transpires. Finn plays with this a lot in Smile, adding the the film’s suspense.

At first, Rose thinks she’s just being paranoid when she starts to see things, and her fiance dismisses all of her concerns. But Rose rewatches the video surveillance of her patient and finds some important clues in her conversation. Her patient talked about how her professor had bludgeoned himself to death and that he was smiling when he was doing it. And her professor had never had any history of mental health or significant depression.

Rose dives deeper into her research and begins to find even more evidence of some sort of supernatural curse. As she learns more, she becomes more paranoid, affecting her relationship with her fiance and sister. Even her therapist seems doubtful of Rose’s suspicions.

With the help of her ex-boyfriend and old surveillance videos, Rose finally puts the pieces together. She realizes that the killings go back even further than her patient’s professor and that they will keep happening. After watching many videos of people like her patient, she connects the fact that the people killing themselves were witnesses to those who committed before them. As a witness herself, Rose’s fear elevates enormously. She is no longer herself, not sleeping, and having hallucinations in her car.

The movie’s end hooked me, and it was just the perfect element of suspense and horror. Rose makes her way back to her childhood house, where her mother overdosed when she was a child, to face the thing that’s causing this alone. What happened to her after that left me in shock. I have no words for Rose’s death disturbing, and I could hardly watch as she became possessed. The end, while unsatisfactory, left me with a lot to process. Although Rose dies, the film leaves the audience wondering what happens to her ex-boyfriend, who will be the next victim since he watched her die.

This movie had a lot of puzzle pieces, and I’d say it was one of the best movies I’ve seen in 2022. It had the perfect amount of jumpscares, although the gore was extreme sometimes, and sometimes the self-harm was hard to watch. There was also a scene with a dead cat that made me want to walk out there.

Although the movie was gruesome, it added to the film.

Rose had a tough childhood after watching her mother end her life with drugs, and the horror of self-harm becomes clear throughout the movie. Since Rose has such a real connection with the victims, her trauma becomes very prominent. It was incredibly gripping when the demon took the shape of Rose’s mother at the end.

Additionally, the title of the movie doesn’t even begin to give viewers a preview of how creepy the smiles in this movie were.

While smiling may not seem particularly frightening, the cast and editing team does an immaculate job depicting the pure evil of a smile. Only the best actors have been able to pull off a truly terrifying smile, and not many can measure up to Jack Nicholson’s chilling smile in The Shining. Yet, the smiles in this movie made me want to sprint out of the theater.

The entire curse is an analogy to Rose’s childhood trauma and, in the end, how she becomes consumed by her guilt of not saving her mother’s life. Finn does a spectacular job depicting Rose’s slipping mental health and how her trauma affects her relationships with the people closest to her. In the end, I’d give this movie a 7/10, and the movie’s overall rating is 79 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie is a perfect combination of The Ring, Truth or Dare, It Follows, and Hereditary. The film had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I would see a sequel if Finn made one.