Review of “Smile”: a Terrifying Paradox

What made a horror film, with the smile as its central axis and made by a rookie director, become the most anticipated horror film of the year? This is our review of "Smile"

Frame from the movie 'Smile'

Photo: YT-Paramount Pictures

LatinAmerican Post | Julián Gómez

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Leer en español: Reseña de “Smile”: una paradoja terrorífica

Parker Finn is the director of the moment. Although he released his first feature film with “Smile”, he already enjoys wide recognition by horror lovers. Regardless of the director's ingenuity, the film is a success for the way he strategically approached his flashy marketing campaign.

After the release of the short film “Laura Hasn't Slept”, Finn releases this film that mixes horror with some psychological trauma. Sosie Bacon, who has already had roles in important productions such as "13 Reasons Why" or "The Manson Girls", is in charge of starring in the most anticipated horror film of the year.

What Is "Smile" about?

Rose (Sosie) is a psychiatrist who, motivated by past trauma, works in a hospital's psychiatric emergency room. All her life, she has managed to cope with this position with a certain normality, until a patient named Laura (Caitlin Stasey) tells her about how an entity takes over strangers and acquaintances to make them smile. All this affects her since she saw how her teacher committed suicide.

While the affected one is telling her problem, Rose witnesses how Laura commits suicide in front of her. After the strange event, another patient evokes Laura's smile and makes it clear that she is next on the list. From there, that entity begins to appear to Rose among acquaintances and strangers, so she seeks a way to combat said curse.

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The Smile as a Paradox

Smiling is the most genuine gesture of pleasure with any situation. For this reason, it is also the most effective mask for those who have a disfigured or collapsed world inside them. Many people take this gesture as therapy to overcome their difficulties, but it is not enough. “Smile” plays with that metaphor and takes the romantic out of the smile, suggesting that just as smiling can be a sign of well-being, it can also be a curse.

The main success of the film lies in the paradox it presents, which is why critics already outline “Smile” as the best horror film of this 2022. Probably, if someone thinks of the smile as contagious, few people are going to imagine that the contagion will be a curse that condemns them to death. The laughing virus also spreads because the gesture itself is sticky in real life.

Marketing to Die of Laughter

Never was the expression "dying of laughter" so literal as with this film. Therefore, the marketing campaign was equal to or better than the film itself. It first drew attention at prime-time baseball games in the United States with actors with macabre smiles, wearing a green T-shirt and the title of the film. The strategy worked because in the first instance it went viral.

But it was not the only strategy. In Spain, those attending the premiere could face the smile of some actors. Many others were disturbed by the clusters of macabre smiles in the movie theaters moments before it was projected.

Another strategy took place in Australia. There they made a presence in the underground subway and the streets so that a group of macabre smiles caught people's attention. They even entered offices. Obviously, people were not indifferent: some reacted with a smile and others were somewhat shocked at what they saw.

This marketing success was essential for "Smile" to have a box office of 22 million dollars in its first week. In addition, it served as a debut film to capture the interest of an audience that now eagerly awaits a second work by Parker Finn.

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