Smile is a 2022 American psychological horror film written and directed by Parker Finn in his feature directorial debut, based on his 2020 short film Laura Hasn't Slept. It stars Sosie Bacon as a therapist who, after witnessing the bizarre suicide of a patient, goes through increasingly disturbing and daunting experiences, leading her to believe what she is experiencing is supernatural. +more Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn, and Rob Morgan also star.

A feature adaptation of Finn's short was announced in June 2020, and the cast was added in October 2021. Filming began that month in New Jersey. +more Originally set for a streaming release through Paramount+, the studio opted to release the film theatrically after strong positive test screenings. Smile had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 22, 2022, and was released in North America on September 30, 2022 by Paramount Pictures.

Smile received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the jumpscares, production values, and Bacon's performance, though some noted similarities to other horror films such as The Ring (2002), It Follows (2014) and Truth or Dare (2018). It was also a box office success, having grossed over $188 million on a $17 million budget.

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Plot

At a psychiatric ward, psychiatrist Dr. Rose Cotter meets with Laura Weaver, who had several days earlier witnessed her professor die by suicide. +more Laura states she is being pursued by an entity that takes the form of people smiling at her, and that it told her she is going to die. She begins to have a mental breakdown and convulses after saying the entity has appeared in the seemingly empty room. Rose turns away and calls for help. When she turns back around, she finds Laura calmly smiling at her, before cutting her own throat with a piece of broken vase.

Following the suicide, Rose witnesses Carl, another patient smiling at her, shouting that she is going to die. She orders for Carl to be restrained, but suddenly sees that Carl was asleep the whole time. +more Concerned for Rose's mental well-being, her supervisor Dr. Morgan Desai gives her a paid week off.

The supernatural occurrences continue, severely harming Rose's relationships with her fiancé Trevor and her sister Holly, who believe she is going insane. Rose has had a strained relationship with Holly ever since the death of their abusive and mentally ill mother, who overdosed and whose body was discovered by a young Rose. +more At her nephew's birthday party, Rose's wrapped gift has somehow been replaced by her dead cat, which disappeared the night before. Rose then sees a party attendant smiling at her, invisible to others.

Discovering that Laura's professor was smiling at her during his death, Rose pays a visit to his widow Victoria, who claims that her husband started acting differently after witnessing a woman die by suicide. Rose visits her ex, Joel, a police detective who had responded to Laura's death. +more Going through police records, they find a chain of cases where someone suffered apparently supernatural hauntings before killing themselves, smiling, and passing the hauntings on to a witness.

Joel discovers that none of the cursed victims lasted longer than a week, except Robert Talley, who is in prison for killing a stranger. Rose and Joel visit Talley in jail, where he explains that the only way to break the chain is to kill someone else in front of a witness to whom the curse will transfer.

The entity later assumes the form of Rose's therapist, Dr. Madeline Northcott, and attacks Rose in her home during an impromptu therapy session, telling her that it is "almost time. +more" Later on in the hospital parking lot, Rose has a dream of murdering Carl in front of Desai, who rips the skin off his face as Carl mockingly screams at the distressed Rose. After spotting a knife inside an erratic Rose's car, Desai alerts the police to her. Rose drives to her remote, abandoned former family home as Joel tries to track her down.

Planning to deprive the demon of witnesses, Rose holes up in the house where she finds the demon having taken the form of her dead mother. It is revealed that Rose had actually found her mother shortly after overdosing; Rose witnessed her mother's death throes, but without intervening. +more Rose confronts the entity, who morphs into a tall, deformed version of Rose's mother. She sets the entity on fire with a gas lantern, seemingly killing it and ending the curse as the house burns down around them. Rose drives to Joel's apartment and is comforted by him, until she realizes the entity is taking his form. As she flees, Rose discovers that she is still at the old house just as the real Joel arriveseverything that happened from the moment she entered the house was a hallucination.

Panicking, Rose locks herself in the house. The entity appears and rips off its own face, revealing its true forma skinless, long-necked creature with nested jawsbefore forcing Rose's mouth open and crawling into her body. +more Joel breaks into the house, eventually finding Rose, who has doused herself in kerosene. Rose turns to face him, smiling, and sets herself on fire in front of him, passing the curse to Joel.

Cast

Production

In June 2020, Parker Finn was tapped by Paramount Pictures to write and direct a feature adaptation of his own short film Laura Hasn't Slept, which saw a young woman seeking the help of her therapist desperate to rid herself of a recurring nightmare. Earlier in March that year, the short film won the Special Jury Recognition Prize for SXSW's Midnight Short category. +more In September 2021, the film was announced under the title Something's Wrong with Rose with Sosie Bacon cast as the titular character. Paramount Players and Temple Hill Entertainment had boarded the film to co-produce. The following month, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Rob Morgan, Kal Penn, Judy Reyes, Gillian Zinser and Caitlin Stasey joined the cast.

Principal photography began on October 11, 2021, in New Jersey, including in the city of Hoboken, and finished on November 24, 2021.

Editing and post-production started on December 3, 2021, and lasted through the end of May 2022, visual effects was done by the-Artery and was supervised by Yuval Levy and Vico Sharabani, when the film was simply retitled Smile. The film's score was composed by Cristobal Tapia de Veer. +more For practical effects, Finn recruited Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. of Amalgamated Dynamics, who he described as a major influence in wanting to be a horror filmmaker for their work in films such as Aliens.

Marketing

Promotional materials that were released included an eight-second teaser on May 26, a 40-second teaser trailer shown at screenings of Top Gun: Maverick and Crimes of the Future in early June 2022, and a two-minute trailer and poster on June 22. Brad Miska of Bloody Disgusting described the footage as "pretty generic", but said it stood out due to its similarities to Ringu and The Ring. +more Shania Russell at /Film compared the film to The Ring, It Follows and Truth or Dare and wrote, "It's all very familiar and probably not too hard to imagine how the movie will progress, but the scares will make or break the experience, and based on the trailer, Smile is more than promising. ".

During several Major League Baseball games the weekend before the film's release, an apparent viral marketing stunt occurred, as the studio or marketing firm purchased seats behind home plate, with actors smiling maniacally into the camera for the pitcher-batter shot for extended periods of time. Some of the actors wore shirts with the name and logo of the film on the front.

A tie-in with the Craiyon text-to-image generator involved AI generation of images of nightmarish smiles.

Release

Smile had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 22, 2022, followed by screenings at Beyond Fest on September 27. It was released in the United States on September 30, 2022, by Paramount Pictures. +more Paramount Pictures President and CEO Brian Robbins said that Smile was originally slated for a streaming-only release on Paramount+, but the studio eventually decided to release the film theatrically because of strong results from test screenings.

Reception

Box office

, Smile has grossed $94.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $94.1 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $188.8 million.

In the United States and Canada, Smile was released alongside Bros, and was projected to gross $16-20 million from 3,645 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $8. +more2 million on its first day, including $2 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $22. 6 million, topping the box office and slightly overperforming its projections, while being the biggest debut of September 2022. The film made $18. 4 million in its sophomore weekend, remaining atop the box office. The 18% second weekend drop was the second-smallest ever for a horror film behind Get Outs 15% in February 2017, and marked the best non-holiday hold of the pandemic era. Although it was dethroned by newcomer Halloween Ends in its third weekend the film continued to hold well, making $12. 6 million.

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 79% based on 173 reviews, and an average rating of 6. 6/10. +more The site's critical consensus reads, "Deeply creepy visuals and a standout Sosie Bacon further elevate Smiles unsettling exploration of trauma, adding up to the rare feature that satisfyingly expands on a short. " On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave the film a 69% overall positive score, with 53% saying they would definitely recommend it.

Marisa Mirabal of IndieWire gave the film a grade of B−, noting its plot's similarities to films such as It Follows, The Ring, Oculus and Final Destination. She wrote: "Smile navigates unhealed trauma through a supernatural lens and mischievous juxtaposition, despite feeling like a shadow of other stories", and added that it "delivers a captivating and claustrophobic mental hellscape that will cause one to both grimace and grin. +more" Tasha Robinson of Polygon wrote: "Smile is often a gimmicky, even corny horror movie, packed with so many jump-scares that the sheer pile-on borders on laughable. But no matter how excessively the legitimate scares pile up, they're startling and convincing. The editing and music are impressively tuned for maximum impact whenever the slow-burning tension resolves with an abrupt, ugly surprise. All of which makes Smile an efficient ride, if an unusually unrelenting one. ".

Katie Rife of RogerEbert. +morecom gave the film 2. 5 out of 4 stars, writing: "In padding out the concept from an 11-minute short into a nearly two-hour movie, Smile leans too heavily not only on formulaic mystery plotting, but also on horror themes and imagery lifted from popular hits like The Ring and It Follows. " Kevin Maher of The Times wrote: "There are some nice jump scares and Bacon is charismatic but it's achingly derivative and dull", and gave the film 2 out of 5 stars. Jeffrey M. Anderson of Common Sense Media also gave the film 2 out of 5 stars, writing: "The image of a creepy, sinister smile is so primal and so chilling that it might have inspired something truly penetrating, but, sadly, this horror movie is content to fall back on noisy jump scares. ".

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