“Smile” Movie Review

Perfectly balancing cheesiness and gore, the psychological horror movie “Smile” is well-paced and erratic.


A smile has never been so sinister. The new horror movie “Smile,” starring Sosie Bacon, has succeeded at the box office by generating an astounding $22 million just during its opening weekend. To say that this movie left me terrified would be an understatement. I was white-knuckled as I held on to my mom’s arm in the movie theater. The movie masterfully guides the audience through the ebb and flow of an increasingly erratic interaction. The crafty camera work depicts scenes from different camera angles and perspectives coupled with a haunting musical score.

The plot follows therapist Dr. Rose Cotter (Bacon) as her life spirals out of control after an interaction with a seemingly disturbed patient. At the start, we see Dr. Cotter attempting to counsel a young woman, Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey) who has recently witnessed the brutal suicide of her college professor. The remainder of the movie follows Dr. Cotter as she falls into the abyss of terror. Along the way, we meet her fiancé (Jessie T. Usher) who struggles to understand her disordered behavior, her ex who happens to be a cop (Kyle Gallner,) her sister (Gillian Zinser) and her therapist (Robin Weigert) who tries to help Dr. Cotter through her changes. 

Admittedly, I was reluctant to watch this horror movie. I had seen a few of the billboards for the movie around town, with the face of a young woman displaying a disturbing smile and the words, “Once You See It It’s Too Late,” emblazoned across the top. 

Usually, when I watch horror movies it is in the comfort of my own home, wrapped in my blanket and flanked on both sides by my parents. Watching it in a movie theater, however, was an entirely different experience. Between the near empty, dark theater and the inability to snuggle on my couch with my protective throw, the movie’s scare factor was through the roof. The directors’ deft use of silence, followed by the building crescendo of creepy music left me on the edge of my seat for the entire 2 hour runtime of the movie.

I come from a family of horror movie lovers, so I am not new to the scary movie genre.  I’ve seen my share of noteworthy, but often lackluster movies that are either too gruesome or too campy for a satisfying scare. “Smile,” however, has a perfect balance of cheesiness and gore and is definitely in my top ten horror movie favorites. It adeptly does what all great horror movies have to do: shows you just enough and then lets your imagination do the rest. It takes the friendly act of smiling and turns it upside down to become something haunting. I’m sure that I will never look at a smile the same way again. Each actor performed the sinister smile to terrifying perfection. 

The movie featured few characters and the primary focus on Dr. Trotter eliminated the need for filler or gratuitous scenes that would do nothing to advance the plot. I would have liked to see a few more scenes with her fiancé and sister, but this didn’t detract from my pleasure in watching the movie. The timing and the pace of the movie were also well done. Although I was tense throughout the movie, the audience was not inundated with a constant barrage of exhausting high-energy scenes.  

I do wish the ending was different. Being a fan of the main character, I was hoping to see her fight her way out. It was an unsatisfying end to an otherwise awesome movie. Paramount Pictures must have anticipated a financial blockbuster because the final scene does leave room for a sequel in the future. Did anyone say, “Smile 2”?

“Smile” was a very enjoyable movie from its actors to its gripping plotline. It is perfect for the Halloween season and would be fun to watch with a group of horror movie-loving friends. It covers all the horror movie essentials: an interesting concept, the right amount of fright and a lead character that you root for.