FlixChatter Review: SMILE (2022) – a well-crafted horror film that’ll get your stomach in knots

smile-horror-moviereview by Laura Schaubschlater

Written and directed by: Parker Finn

I’ll be honest- I wasn’t particularly interested in Smile after seeing the trailer. The characters’ sinister facial expressions reminded me of the cheesy Snapchat filter smile effect from 2018’s Truth or Dare, one of the worst horror movies I’ve reviewed, so my hopes weren’t high. However, my aunt mentioned wanting to see it, so I said yes to covering the screening, figuring that even if I didn’t end up liking it, it’d still be a fun girls’ night out. 


Smile follows Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), a psychiatrist in an emergency mental health unit. After a traumatic incident with a patient (Caitlin Stasey, who played the lead in the short film this movie is based on), Rose begins seeing a frightening entity wherever she goes. She must face her own traumatic past if she hopes to escape a potentially lethal fate. 


This is a technically excellent movie. I love the score; most of it is this dissonant music box/circus-like tune that is incredibly eerie. That, combined with the sharp, bright colors and lighting throughout the movie gives the film an unsettling quality that matches the concept of a normally cheerful facial expression being scary. There are plenty of exquisitely suspenseful and horrifying scenes, most of which don’t rely on special effects or overtly creepy imagery, making the few things we do see fully (specifically the nightmare creature toward the end, played by Kevin Keppy) extra impactful. 


The cast is excellent as well. Sosie Bacon is a fantastic lead, giving an intense, emotional performance that’s easy to get caught up in. Kyle Gallner as Joel, a cop, and Rose’s ex-boyfriend, gives a likable performance and provides some much-needed levity without going over the top. Even the smaller roles shine, especially Kal Penn as Dr. Morgan Desai, Rose’s boss, and Rob Morgan as Robert Talley, an imprisoned murderer who has gone through the same experience as Rose.


That all said, I do have some gripes about the writing. I was surprised that Rose doesn’t spend much time questioning her mental well-being when she begins experiencing horrifying visions, considering she’s a mental health professional. The movie is nearly two hours long, so it’s not like they couldn’t have spent a little more time exploring that arc, and the pacing suffers as a result. Additionally, the ending feels a little abrupt; it kind of feels like they ran out of ideas. Lastly, SPOILER ALERT (highlight text to read) I am so tired of pets being killed in horror movies. As soon as I saw Rose’s cat Mustache, I was immediately worried they’d fall back on that cliche, and, unfortunately, I was right. Hollywood: LEAVE ADORABLE PETS ALONE IN HORROR MOVIES. There’s already plenty for me to be scared of. I don’t need to feel sad about a cute cat on top of it.


Overall, though, I really enjoyed this movie. Besides some writing issues, it’s a well-made, well-acted horror film that kept my stomach in knots throughout most of the run time. The last couple of years have been especially good for the genre, and if Smile is any indication, that trend doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. 

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen SMILE? Well, what did you think?


7 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: SMILE (2022) – a well-crafted horror film that’ll get your stomach in knots

  1. When I saw the trailer, I thought it’s a full length feature of a short movie that came out like 6 or 7 years ago. In that movie, a man encountered a smiling man while he’s walking alone at night and he was stalked by that smiling person. I don’t know if this movie is an extension or share the same universe as that short movie. But I’ll give it a watch when it hits streaming.

    1. It actually is adapted from a short film called “Laura Hasn’t Slept,” but I definitely want to check out the one you’re talking about, because it sounds super creepy! I’ve heard a few versions of a short story that match your short film description and it always creeped me out.

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