What Are You Laughing At?: Smile (2022) - Reviewed

Trying to cash in on repetitive and overused tropes of the late 1990's and early 2000's is this week's release of the altogether bland Smile.

Coming off the cinematic highs of the indie hit Barbarian and the near greatness of Ti West's Pearl, Smile is ten steps backwards for the genre as a whole. Director Parker Finn's first full length release is an altogether boring film that never cashes in on its excellent ideas or cast. There's definitely something lurking under the surface here that would have worked. Unfortunately Finn isn't quite there yet as a director. With two short films behind him, he was a dire mistake on the part of the studio. 

As a malicious force appears to take hold and cause full on mental instability, the bodies begin to pile up. What starts as an altogether grim tale of death ultimately turns into a creatively vacant film that relies too heavily on repeating its own mistakes over and over again. Adding to the pile of failures of Smile are a group of actors who aren't even convinced of the roles they're playing. None of them ever bring any level of realness to the screen and most appear to be bored out of their minds with this Ring-lite clone. We're better than this now. Horror has evolved. But for some reason, Smile is still stuck in the past, trying to claw its way into the present with a bloody ear to ear grin. 

What is an obvious attempt to kickstart a new franchise is an altogether snooze fest that leans too heavily on failed jump scares and a mythology that has no bite. And when things finally seem to be humming along, we're continually reminded of other movies that did this story much better. Sure, there's some excellent deaths in the movie and a bit of quality gore, but those scenes do nothing to move the story or to help develop the imbecilic characters. Whenever something shocking happens, it's sidelined by more over acting or melodrama by actors that just don't care about what they're doing here. 

Smile is further proof positive that the major studios still have no idea how to do great horror and that the darlings typically come from the indie brands. Other than an excellent score, Smile is not as smart as it wants to be. Instead of using its underpinnings of trauma and loss, the film sits idle, never stirring any real emotions. Great horror would use the human elements of mourning, suicide, and tragedy to full effect. Director Finn is just not there yet. In more capable hands, this could have been excellent. For now, it's another retread that's not worthy of its obvious influences. 

Its creepy marketing tactics are better than the actual movie. Enjoy. This one didn't make me smile at all.