[Screen It]


(2022) (Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner) (R)

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Horror: A psychiatric doctor finds herself stuck in a supernatural chain that could prove deadly for her.

Rose Cotter (SOSIE BACON) is a doctor at a New Jersey emergency psychiatric unit who went into that line of work stemming from her mother's suicide when Rose was 10-years-old. When a new patient, Laura Weaver (CAITLIN STASEY) -- who claims to be haunted by sinister forces she can't fully explain -- kills herself in front of Rose, the doctor's life quickly begins to unravel.

That ends up putting a strain on her relationship with her live-in fiancÚ, Trevor (JESSIE T. USHER), and further distances her from her older sister, Holly (GILLIAN ZINSER). When she realizes she's caught in some sort of supernatural chain, she turns to her police detective ex, Joel (KYLE GALLNER), for help in trying to figure out how to extricate herself from that.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

Under most circumstances, smiling is a good thing. It indicates one degree or another of feeling good, enjoying oneself, or happily interacting with others, pets, and sometimes even inanimate objects.

But there are times when a grin is more of a grimace and the result of trying to cover up some sort of pain. And then some smiles are one-hundred and eighty degrees from the actual mindset behind them. These often show up in sociopaths, psychopaths, and the like and are the kind that usually make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

That's the desired reaction those behind the new horror film "Smile" are hoping to elicit from anyone taking in this creepy if formulaic offering. Written and directed by Parker Finn, it's the tale of a New Jersey doctor, Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), who witnesses a troubled young woman (Caitlin Stasey) take her own life in a grisly fashion after reporting being terrorized by something she can't quite explain.

The troubling and unnerving element of the act is that the victim did so with a big, deranged grin on her face. Oh, and she just so happened to have been the lone witness to a prior suicide a few days back.

Could this be some sort of traveling, transferrable curse? Will Rose try to figure out what that is and how to break it before it's too late? Or will she pass on the curse to her fiancÚ (Jessie T. Usher), her detective ex (Kyle Gallner), or maybe her shrink (Robin Weigert) who previously helped her deal with her mother's suicide years earlier? Find out next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel.

Sorry, started to think of the Joker and his big, bad grin. Here, the evil is never personified beyond the prior victim showing up to terrorize the next likely one via unsettling appearances -- natch, with that big, creepy grin -- and sudden jump scene scares. Some of those are effective, but once the basic story concept was set up, and the curse ground rules, so to speak, had been established, I found my sense of being unsettled beginning to wane.

Which is too bad since the red herring potential -- where we don't know reality from supernaturally induced hallucinations to possibly inherited mental illness to the psychosomatic results of being overworked, lack of sleep, and unresolved issues from the past -- is abundant.

Some of is it real or not material is present -- and offers the most effectively spooky moments -- but perhaps with a more deft or creative touch and approach (in place of the various upside down camera shots that show up), all of that likely easily could have kept most viewers off balance, and thus creeped out. Even so, there are enough effective scares and overall unsettling material that horror fans might have some degree or another of a grin on their faces. "Smile" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Posted September 30, 2022

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