So … I saw “Smile.” I’m okay, in case you were wondering. It wasn’t too scary. Granted, I have been visited by a certain entity of sorts in my nightmares since then — but aside from that, I’m fine. To be honest, I don’t know where to start. (I don’t typically go out of my way to watch horror movies, so my opinion might not even be valid.) But, the fact remains: I watched it. And to be honest, it wasn’t terrible. Though, watching it with a friend made the experience exponentially better. Some moments were engaging, others, laughable. Let’s talk about it.
“Smile” follows our protagonist, Dr. Rose, a therapist who witnesses a patient die a horrific but puzzling death one day at work. Following the traumatic incident, Rose begins to experience unexplainable visions, which seem to only serve to torment her. Gradually, reality and fiction blend together, leaving her unsure of what’s real. Desperate for a reprieve, she searches for answers to stop whatever is destroying her life.
Not a terrible plotline, by any means. Scary entity messes with a victim — classic formula for these types of movies. Add a splash of mystery here, a sprinkle of the macabre there and top off with a pinch of creepy and you’ve got yourself a blockbuster. Dr. Rose is played by Sosie Bacon, who does a good job at portraying a horror victim. Bacon’s acting really stood out; it felt genuine in a movie whose supporting cast was rather forgettable. Jessie T. Usher, who you might recognize from Amazon’s “The Boys,” plays the role of Trevor, Rose’s fiance. His best scene was a comedic one and had half the theater laughing out loud. The problem was, it wasn’t supposed to be a funny scene. But hey, Kal Penn was there too! We all love the guy who can play Kumar and work in the White House. Seriously, Kumar worked for Obama. It’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, his scenes are few and far between. I’d say the only other real standout was Rob Morgan, whose character I won’t spoil. But he came to set that day to act and boy, did he act. Nice job, Morgan. As for the rest of the cast? They showed up, I guess. To be fair, they weren’t really given much to work with either.
The cinematography, on the other hand, was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I love it when directors get creative, and horror films are definitely the movies to do so. Dynamic camera shots were present throughout the film and kept scenes engaging. Slow pans to center in on a subject are perfect for suspenseful moments. In true horror fashion, center framing was prevalent in many scenes. If you’re familiar with Wes Anderson or Stanley Kubrick films, then you’d recognize the framing shots and their effectiveness. The camera work really supported the movie’s unsettling and unnerving nature well. And there was a title card, too! So, bonus points.
As movies go, not bad at all. It had really engaging elements, like the jumpscares and subversive moments. There was also a really interesting theme of guilt and trauma, but it was kind of thrown out the window. I wish they had capitalized on it; it would have made the plot a little more cohesive. Granted, it is a horror movie, so traditional story structure isn’t really the end goal. When you stack “Smile” up against other horror films, it doesn’t really compare. I haven’t seen a lot, as mentioned, but I’ve seen enough to know this movie felt really derivative, like, really derivative. Maybe that was the point. Maybe it’s a modern day homage to the classics. Regardless, it’s not very original. That aside, it’s fun and it is spooky season, after all. I would recommend watching it, but with a friend or two. Overall rating: 3 out of 5 french fries.
Disclaimer: Watch at your own discretion. I am not accountable for whatever happens in your dreams after watching it.