The film “Smile” may win the award for the best marketing strategy of 2022.
In a viral marketing campaign, actors from the film appeared at various baseball games throughout the country behind home plate and began to smile creepily into the camera. When social media users took hold of this, a lot of questions arose about the origin of the smile thus boosting the interest in an otherwise mundane word of mouth for the film.
By buying a few $500 tickets at baseball games, Paramount Pictures utilized a far better strategy to promote their horror film than spending millions the traditional way.
However, the last film that tried to utilize creepy smiles to sell movie tickets was the 2018 film Truth or Dare, a movie that certified itself as one of the worst movies to come out that year and a horror gimmick that nobody took seriously. But where Universal failed, Paramount succeeded because ‘Smile’ takes a dumb gimmick and turns it into a decent horror film.
‘Smile’ begins as a story about Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) who works at a psychiatric ward dealing with high-risk patients. One day she meets patient Laura Weaver who is a Ph.D. student that witnessed her professor take his own life. Laura now claims to be stalked by an entity that only she can see and looks like other people see. The only way to tell the difference is its evil smile.
Laura then has a sudden mental breakdown and smiles at Rose before taking her own life with a shard from a broken vase. As Rose is sent on leave to deal with the trauma, she begins to suffer the same issues that Laura claimed she had experienced before he died. Rose is now in a race for time trying to figure out what demon is trying to end her life before she suffers the same fate as everyone else before her.
Smile is a mixed bag of goods that gets more right than it gets wrong. The film follows the same curse-based horror sub-genre that films like The Ring or It Follows. The bread and butter of the movie are through jump scares that unlike in previous films are well-placed with a strong detail to the setup of the scares. The movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to the horror genre, but its effectiveness at creating tension sets it apart from any other horror films we have seen over the last few years.
While the scares are effective, the storytelling aspects leave a lot to be desired. Sosie Bacon is a solid protagonist and isn’t asked to do too much by creating the emotional weight of the movie. However, actors like Jessie T. Usher who plays Rose’s fiancé are useless characters who don’t provide any value to the movie, not even a satisfying death.
The rule of the film is that in order for the demon to go from one body to another, the next person has to witness the other person killing themselves and watch them be murdered. The central theme here is all about trauma, But towards the end, The film forgets about its own rules with an ending that can only be described as pure plot-induced stupidity.
‘Smile’ is a few steps behind other horror films such as ‘The Black Phone’ and ‘Pearl’, which did a much better job at utilizing the full depth of the universe it creates, However, casual movie fans will not expect much and the film is solid enough to earn the price of admission.