Fantastic Fest 2022: SMILE

The opening night feature of this year’s Fantastic Fest was the world premiere of the horror movie Smile. Thanks to the trailers, promos, and other creepy stunts used to promote the film, there is much anticipation among horror fans for what they hope is a thoroughly frightening experience. So, does Smile live up to all of the hype? Well, that is what I discovered on the first night of the festival.

However, before I get to that, I should probably offer a brief synopsis of what to expect character and story-wise. Sosie Bacon stars as Dr. Rose Cotter, a psycho-therapist who experiences a most horrific experience when witnessing a seeming supernatural death of one of her patients, Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey). Not long after enduring this trauma, she begins to experience further bizarre supernatural events similar to what she witnessed at the time of her patient’s death. Not knowing whether or not the other-worldly images she is seeing are real, or if she is having some kind of mental breakdown. Dr. Cotter decides to investigate further into what lead up to Laura Weaver’s supposed breakdown.

Written and directed by Parker Finn, Smile certainly makes good on its promises of scares and creepiness, but does so with a story and premise that are not all that original. Still, I will give kudos to Finn and his team for succeeding in creating a world that is utterly unsettling and visually striking in the most disturbing ways. Though the story and scenarios are rather similar to other, better horror films, Finn’s style, timing, and suspense building nevertheless works well.

Though I am familiar with her acting parents Kyra Sedwick and Kevin Bacon, Smile is actually the first time I have seen Sosie Bacon act in anything. Well, the apple doesn’t fall too far from her parental trees. Sosie delivers a performance with the strength, tenacity, and vulnerability that the character demands. Now that I have seen her work in this movie, I look forward to seeing her more in the furture. The movie also features great performances by Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Jessie T. Usher, Rob Morgan, Kal Penn, Robin Weigert, and Judy Reyes.

Smile is now playing in theaters and it is a movie I moderately recommend for horror fans. At the same time, these same horror fans will recognize that they have seen similar stories like this one previously. Still, that doesn’t exactly mean that they won’t find some wicked enjoyment in the horrific imagery, tension, jolts, and other creepy delights this movie has to offer.

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