Smile (2022 film)
|Directed by||Parker Finn|
|Written by||Parker Finn|
|Based on||Laura Hasn't Slept|
by Parker Finn
|Edited by||Elliot Greenberg|
|Music by||Cristobal Tapia de Veer|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$215.8 million|
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 named Rose Cotter, 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. It also stars Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Robin Weigert, Kal Penn, and Rob Morgan, as well as Caitlin Stasey playing the same character she played in the short film.
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. Originally set for a streaming release through Paramount+, the studio opted to release the film theatrically after strong positive test screenings. It was made available for streaming through Paramount+ after its first 45 days in theaters. Smile had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 22, 2022, and was released in the United States on September 30, 2022, by Paramount Pictures.
Smile received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the Finn's direction, visuals, cinematography, atmosphere, themes, and Bacon's performance, and has grossed $215 million worldwide against a $17 million budget.
At a psychiatric ward, stressed and overworked psychiatrist Dr. Rose Cotter meets with Laura Weaver, a PhD student who had several days earlier witnessed her art history professor die by suicide. Laura claims that an entity taking the form of smiling people is stalking and telling her she is going to die. Soon thereafter, Laura begins screaming hysterically and has a seizure. After Rose calls for help, she sees Laura standing up and grinning. With a shard of a broken plant pot, Laura commits suicide by slitting her throat. Rose later sees her manic patient Carl grinning and shouting she is going to die. Rose calls for nurses to restrain him, only to see he was asleep the whole time. Concerned for Rose's mental well-being, her supervisor Dr. Morgan Desai gives her a week off.
The following days, the hallucinations continue, making Rose seem unhinged and dangerous to people around her, including her fiancé Trevor and sister Holly. At her nephew's birthday party, Rose's gift has somehow been replaced by her dead cat, horrifying the children. She sees a party attendant grinning at her that no one else can see and falls onto a glass table, ending the party in chaos. She visits her former therapist, Dr. Madeline Northcott, who suggests that her problems stem from her abusive and mentally ill mother, whose death from an overdose she witnessed as a child.
Upon learning Laura's professor was grinning at her before his death, Rose visits his widow Victoria and learns he was affected after witnessing a woman die by suicide. Rose asks her ex-boyfriend Joel, a police detective, to go through police records. They find several cases where someone witnessed a suicide, then a few days later died by suicide in front of someone else, who continued the pattern.
Rose visits Holly, attempting to explain the situation, but only worsens their relationship. The entity takes the form of Holly as she leaves, terrifying her. Joel calls her, revealing that he discovered all the witnesses died by suicide within a week. The exception was Robert Talley, who instead murdered someone, and the key witness to the murder continued the suicide chain. Rose and Joel visit Robert in jail, where the latter claims the only way to escape the entity is to kill someone in front of a witness, and do it in a brutal fashion to cause major psychological trauma, off of which the entity "feeds".
Rose angrily rejects the option and leaves. She is confronted at home by the entity in Madeline's form telling her it is "almost time". Rose impulsively drives to her hospital with a knife and hallucinates murdering Carl in front of Morgan to pass on the curse. She snaps out of it and hastily drives away, though not before Morgan spots the knife and alerts the police.
Rose drives to her abandoned family home. Attempting to deprive the entity of witnesses, Rose confronts it in the form of her dead mother. It is revealed Rose had actually found her mother shortly after overdosing; she witnessed her mother's death throes but did not intervene. Rose sets the entity on fire and leaves as the house burns down. She drives to Joel's apartment and he comforts her. When Joel starts smiling, Rose realizes everything that happened from the moment she entered the old house was a hallucination. The entity confronts the now despairing Rose, reveals itself as a giant skinless creature with mouths nested within its mouth, then overwhelms her and forces itself inside her body.
Joel, having tracked Rose's phone, enters the house and sees a smiling Rose set herself on fire as he watches helplessly, with the entity’s curse passing onto him.
- Sosie Bacon as Dr. Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist
- Meghan Brown Pratt as 10-year-old Rose
- Jessie T. Usher as Trevor, Rose's fiancée
- Kyle Gallner as Joel, Rose's ex-boyfriend and a police detective
- Robin Weigert as Dr. Madeline Northcott, Rose's therapist
- Caitlin Stasey as Laura Weaver, Rose's patient who committed suicide
- Kal Penn as Dr. Morgan Desai, Rose's boss
- Rob Morgan as Robert Talley, the only person who did not die after witnessing one of the suicides, and who is currently in prison
- Judy Reyes as Victoria Muñoz, Gabriel's wife who lost her husband
- Gillian Zinser as Holly Cotter, Rose's older sister
- Jack Sochet as Carl Renken
- Nick Arapoglou as Greg, Holly's husband
- Dora Kiss as Rose and Holly's mother, who died of a drug overdose
- Sara Kapner as Stephanie
- Kevin Keppy as Nightmare Mom
- Marti Matulis as The Monstrosity
Discover more about Cast related topics
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. 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.
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. 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.
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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. 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.
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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. 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.
The film was released for VOD platforms on November 15, 2022, with a Blu-ray, DVD and 4K UHD release set for December 13, 2022. The film was released for SVOD on Paramount+ on November 15th, 2022 as well.
Discover more about Release related topics
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 $8.2 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 Out's 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. On November 9, 2022, it became only the third R-rated film released in the pandemic era to gross $100 million domestically, as well as becoming the highest-grossing R-rated horror film worldwide during the pandemic.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 79% based on 179 reviews, and an average rating of 6.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Deeply creepy visuals and a standout Sosie Bacon further elevate Smile's 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." 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.com 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."
Smile explores several themes and devices common to the horror genre, such as trauma, grief, and guilt. As the audience follows through the lens of protagonist Dr. Rose Cotter, she becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator, further blurring lines between delusions and reality, an area upon which she should, in theory, have a firm grasp as a clinical psychologist. The concept and effects of trauma is explored at various levels. On a clinical level, Rose may be seen as experiencing vicarious trauma (wherein therapists experience trauma as a result of treating their patients’ trauma) as she treats patients. On a more metaphorical level, the cyclical nature of trauma is seen through the antagonist monster’s process of causing one victim to spread their trauma to other victims. The deeper extent of personal trauma is shown through the multiple endings experienced by Rose as she confronts her more fully revealed past trauma, only to be forced to relive it.
Critics point out that the concept of being consumed by one’s trauma to the point that trauma manifests as an identity is observably common within the genre. As such, Smile has been thematically compared to other horror movies such as The Babadook and It Follows, among others.
As Katie Rife from New York Magazine’s Vulture explains, “Smile is both an extension and a repudiation of the trauma plot, incorporating its traits and tropes while denying viewers the familiar catharsis of conquering the monster.” Indeed, writer-director Parker Finn chose to include multiple endings to the film as an attempt to subvert savvy viewers’ predictions related to the typical trauma-plot.
Discover more about Reception related topics
The Ring (2002 film)
Puppet Master (film)
The Ward (film)
Scream (2022 film)
Paranormal Activity (film series)
We Are What We Are (2013 film)
Rings (2017 film)
A Christmas Horror Story
Body Cam (film)
She Will (film)
Laura Hasn't Slept
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- Robinson, Tasha (September 30, 2022). "Smile director Parker Finn unpacks the movie's many endings". Polygon. Retrieved November 16, 2022.
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