What to Watch Verdict
The smile will soon be wiped off your face once you've been bombarded with shocks, gore, trauma and Cristobal Tapia de Veer's harrowing sound design.
Sosie Bacon gives a career-best performance
Cristobal Tapia de Veer's score will send shivers up your spine
It's relentless and filled with eerie visuals, shocking moments, and suspense
Some really good scares throughout
Over reliant on jump-scares, less is sometimes more
Gives away the best moments in the trailer which spoils things
Suffers some pacing issues and could have been shorter
The ending is bleak and might feel anti-climactic for some
Smile is the latest horror movie from Paramount, and sees director Parker Finn adapting the feature from his previous short film Laura Hasn't Slept, which was released in 2020.
The movie follows Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) who works in the psych ward at her local hospital and is clearly dedicated to the job and her patients, putting in 80-hour weeks at the expense of her social life. She's calm, collected and good at what she does but all that is about to change after a terrifying encounter.
One day, a woman named Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey) is brought in, who is convinced she is about to die and explains to Rose that she keeps seeing something. She calls it "the worst smile she has ever seen" and that it can take the form of anyone, she's convinced it's following her and that it wants her dead.
Initially Rose thinks Laura is traumatized or under considerable stress, but before she's able to help the panicked woman, she begins screaming before calming down and staring right at Rose, grinning as she slits her own throat right in front of her.
It's a horrifying image, and Smile relies heavily on eerie and gruesome imagery to freak out its audience, as well as showing Rose's own mental decline. Shortly after Rose witnesses this suicide, she also begins seeing the same things Laura described, and worries she's also in serious danger.
Rose begins acting erratically, she's easily spooked, she overreacts to a patient at the hospital, she keeps seeing that smile, to the point where her boss tells her to take a paid week to calm down, process what happened and come back stronger, but instead, the opposite happens as this mysterious smile starts to consume her entire life.
Sosie Bacon's performance as Rose is certainly memorable, and she does a fantastic job at conveying the sheer terror her character feels as she starts to lose control of her life. Whether that's being tormented in her own home or a gruesome incident at her nephew's birthday, Sosie gives 100% and you can really feel what her character's going through. She's no stranger to the horror genre, having appeared in Scream: The TV Series and it would be great to see her in more roles like that going forward.
The supporting cast is decent too, with The Boys star Jessie T Usher playing Rose's skeptical fiance, who seems more interested in preserving his own reputation, as well as Rose's sister Holly (Gillian Zinser), who she has a strained relationship with at the best of times.
With so much of Rose's world turning against her, she feels largely isolated, and only really has her ex-boyfriend and cop Joel (Kyle Gallner) to help with her investigation.
The incident with Laura isn't the only traumatic thing Rose has experienced and old wounds start to reopen as she's forced to confront her past amid all the terror. She can't rid herself of the smile, no one is believing her except for Joel, and she begins to become as afraid and isolated as some of her patients, putting her in a vulnerable position throughout, and her journey to discover the truth is filled with pure horror.
However, Smile does have some pacing issues where it lags a bit and an over reliance on jump-scares can be frustrating at times, especially when there are some genuinely effective scary moments at points in the movie that got a reaction from the audience. Unfortunately, many of these moments were also shown in the trailer and we already knew they were coming, so it's best to go into this one blind and try to avoid watching the trailer if you can.
There are some great moments of tension building throughout, helped by Cristobal Tapia de Veer's excellent sound design, and the movie really benefits from being watched on the big screen so you get to hear it in surround sound. It feels like his best work since Channel 4's Utopia, a series with an equally as ominous tone throughout.
It's an interesting exploration of trauma, with echoes of films like Midsommar and Hereditary throughout, although the ending is potentially bleaker than some fans may have expected. While horror doesn't always have a happy or even positive ending, this one feels quite abrupt and could risk audiences wanting more.
Overall, Smile is an effective movie with some good scares, but it could have gone deeper at points and would have benefited from a tighter pace throughout, as well as more psychological horror instead of predictable jumps.
However, if you're after a good scare this October, it could definitely be one to add to your Halloween line-up as you won't be forgetting some of the gruesome imagery any time soon.
Smile is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday, September 28, and is released worldwide on Friday, September 30.
Lucy joined the WhatToWatch.com team in 2021, where she writes series guides for must-watch programmes, reviews and the latest TV news. Originally from Northumberland, she graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in Film Studies and moved to London to begin a career writing about entertainment.
She is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic and has a huge passion for cinema. She especially loves horror, thriller and anything crime-related. Her favourite TV programmes include Inside No 9, American Horror Story, Stranger Things and Black Mirror but she is also partial to a quiz show or a bit of Say Yes to the Dress!
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