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4K Ultra HD Review: Smile

December 14, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The surprise box office hit Smile is an original horror movie from writer-director Parker Finn, that mixes the paranoia of It Follows, with the ticking time bomb once-you-see-it-you-die conceit of The Ring, and the dysfunctional family drama mixed with supernatural horror of Hereditary.

Despite these obvious influences, Finn’s film – which has been adapted to feature length from his 2020 horror short Laurie Hasn’t Slept – serves as a pretty confident debut feature that is mostly successful at building tension through camera moves and flashes of grisly imagery, with a pretty intriguing hook, to boot.

Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) is a psychiatrist who witnesses the bloody suicide of a college student, Laura (Caitlin Stasey, star of the original short), who is brought into the hospital in the midst of a mental breakdown from having witnessed her professor’s suicide a week earlier. Rose is left haunted by the unnerving smile on Laura’s face as she slits her own throat, and ends up trapped in a deadly chain of paranoia, fearing that whatever force possessed the young woman and her professor to take their own lives has been passed on to her.

The film can feel like a bit of a pastiche with its various shades of the aforementioned horror movies, which arguably did this all more effectively, and it also occasionally struggles to sustain itself through the nearly two hour running time. Rose’s partner Trevor (Jessie T. Usher) feels very underwritten as a character, and a subplot involving her police officer ex-boyfriend Joel (Kyle Gallner), whom she reconnects with to help her on the case, feels somewhat clichéd.

But Smile is still largely effective as a creepy horror movie, mainly due to some truly unsettling visuals and Bacon’s committed performance. It’s become almost passé at this point to label a horror movie as actually being about trauma, but Smile‘s villain is a literal manifestation of it. As the story progresses, Rose is forced to confront things from her past, a character arc that Bacon handles quite well. The film is further elevated by some pretty nifty practical effects in the big finale.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K disc includes a decent selection of bonus material, from an extended featurette to the original short. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Commentary by Director Parker Finn

Something’s Wrong with Rose: Making Smile (29 minutes, 7 seconds): A solid making-of featurette that covers a variety of aspects, from the casting, to the production design and practical effects.

Flies on the Wall: Inside the Score (8 minutes, 50 seconds): Footage of Canadian composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer performing his unique and eery score for the film on a variety of instruments.

Deleted Scenes (Play All – 11 minutes, 40 seconds): Two extended sequences cut from the film, presented with optional commentary by Finn.

Panic Attack (9 minutes, 3 seconds)

You’re Gonna Be Okay (2 minutes, 36 seconds)

Laura Hasn’t Slept – Original Short with Introduction by Director Parker Finn (11 minutes, 19 seconds): Finn’s short film that was supposed to premiere at SXSW in 2020, which caught the attention of producers at Paramount to finance the feature version. It’s a promising little film with a solid jump scare, that shows seeds of what ultimately became Smile.

Smile is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 115 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: December 13th, 2022

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