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September 30, 2022 / Paramount Pictures Canada

Starring: Sophie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner

Directed By: Parker Finn

After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can't explain. Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.

Written By Darren

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Smile is a pleasant surprise, delivering a chill inducing and paranoia filled horror film that is certain to both terrify and entertain audiences this Halloween season.

I will be the first to admit, but the trailer for Smile did absolutely nothing for me. It looked like your average, run of the mill horror film reliant on generic jump scares based around a creepy smile, giving me some major Truth or Dare vibes. And while the first act of the film seemed to follow down that path, the film eventually clicks, finding a chilling tone as it messes with the audience’s mind and becomes a great little horror film. The film tells the story of a young doctor, who after witnessing a traumatic incident involving her patient, faces a terrifying truth that forces her to face her past in order to survive. While it is a horror movie at its core, the film explores mental health issues and uses that to draw the audience into the story, creating a story with hints of truth amongst the supernatural terror our herorine faces.

Sprinkled throughout the film are all the jump scares you would expect from such a film, but the majority of them work really well because once the film hits its second act, you are constantly questioning what is reality and what is a fear induced hallucination. This allows the jump scares to catch you for the most part completely off guard, even if the editing on some of the scares are poorly timed. Even if some of the jump scares deliver the scare either too soon before the sense of dread can be fully instilled in the audience or too late, the film is still guaranteed to elevate your heart rate in the second and third act. Unfortunately the trailer gave away the entire plot of the film, leaving very few story surprises for anyone who caught the trailer before seeing the film (so a good portion of audiences), so it is nice that the scares compensate for this and creates a thrilling experience. Writer director Parker Finn shows true talent, having crafted a solid story and guided it well as director from start to finish, which makes me intrigued to see what he conjures up for his second feature length film.

Holding the entire film together is Sosie Bacon, who gives an excellent performance. Bacon is completely unhinged in the lead role of Rose, finding an emotional vulnerability as her character struggles with the supernatural force trying to kill her and the scream queen that is required of the role. The entire film revolves around Rose, so it is Bacon’s performance that carries the film from start to finish, proving herself not only a solid horror film lead but a great leading lady. Even without her famous parents, Bacon is on the verge of a breakout, especially if Smile is as big of a hit it is tracking to be.

The film’s supporting cast is hit or miss, ranging from the perfectly cast Robin Weigert as Rose’s therapist after being a great therapist on HBO’s Big Little Lies, to the terribly underused Jessie T. Usher as Rose’s fiance Trevor and Kal Penn as Rose’s boss. Standing out in the supporting cast is Kyle Gallner as Joel, one of the officer’s on Rose’s case and her ex-boyfriend. Gallner always plays a darker character well, after having done so on television shows like Veronica Mars, which is a great match to the tone of the film. He has great rapport on screen with Bacon, making for a great duo in the latter half of the film as they investigate what is happening to rose.

With the signature creepy smile, the film has some solid CGI to bring that terrifying image to life, creating some truly startling moments throughout the film. When it moves into more grotesque images in the final act, the CGI begins to show a little more, but it is never enough to fully distract from the terrifying and graphic moments that the film creates. Guaranteed to send chills down your spine and have you jumping in your seat thanks to a smart story and a dominating lead performance from Sosie Bacon, Smile is a terribly fun and terrifying time that is certain to deliver all the scares that audiences are looking for in a horror movie this Halloween season.

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