The Reel Review

B-

Triggered by seeing a patient’s brutal suicide, a therapist with unresolved past trauma appears to lose her grip on reality. But when she discovers that her patient was the latest in a mysterious chain of suicides by individuals who themselves had just witnessed the prior suicide, she wonders – is she really having a psychotic breakdown or is she now being plagued by a demonic curse? Sosie Bacon (Mare of Easttown) stars in this mashup of supernatural and psychological horror.

Caitlin Stasey in Smile

Drawing from his short film Laura Hasn’t Slept, the first hour of writer/director Parker Finn’s feature film debut is impressive, with some truly terrifying jump scares, visually trippy camerawork and an unsettling, strings-laden score. Bacon is exceptional as the increasingly distraught psychologist, setting up a suffocatingly bleak blurring between psychosis and the supernatural.

Sosie Bacon and Jack Sochet in Smile

But effective jump scares aside, too many key moments of this hybrid of the supernatural thrillers Fallen and The Ring are revealed in the film’s trailer to keep it truly suspenseful. Simply put, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what’s coming next. Recurring themes about the transmittable nature of trauma and the difficulty of trauma sufferers to be understood by those around them also get lost in the more muddled last half hour. What starts as an excellent but sad story about mental illness devolves into cheap scares, silly supernatural CGI and a frustratingly ambiguous ending.

REEL FACTS

• Initially Paramount planned for Smile to be a streaming-only release on Paramount+, but decided to give it a theatrical run after test audiences gave it high scores.

• With a budget of $17 million, Smile grossed $22 million over its opening weekend, wildly exceeding the studio’s expectations.

• Psychosis is a condition that affects a person’s sense of reality, blurring the line between what’s real and what isn’t. Those experiencing psychosis often have religious or supernatural explanations for what is happening to them.

 

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