Smile (2022): A Movie Review

James Lanternman
4 min readOct 9, 2022

Writer/director Parker Finn’s debut feature is a curse/demonic possession movie (in that order, with possession playing a subservient role in the narrative) with primary themes of mental health, trauma, and the cycle of abuse.

The plot concerns Rose Cotter (played by Sosie Bacon), a cynical-minded psychiatrist who treats a new patient one day. That patient is a clearly intelligent but distraught PHD student, initially with no signs of psychosis, who attempts to frantically explain her recent experiences of seeing an evil entity who takes various human forms, and has told her she is going to die today.

The training of Rose has conditioned her to see things through a purely psychological lens, but events transpire that throw that world-view askew, and go from there.

— An offset: that “smile,” in the real world is the kind of smile you only see from someone who is on the Dark Triad spectrum, when they feel empowered, and are gloating in predation. I felt that I needed to mention that. It might help someone. If you need help from that, there are people who will help (including me). Seek them out. —

Rose finds herself in the position of defending her sanity in a similar way to the PHD student she met, fighting for a cynical society to take her experiences at face value. We follow the story from there, in a scary journey through a culture that has both a materialistic and “eyes wide shut” attitude, seemingly without shelter — even when it comes to family, or those who seemed liked loved-ones.

Narratively it is a crackling with real and true energy, and has great depth. It keeps things on the surface, though. Straight horror. It entertains.

A hostile society you want to take apart, possibly by cat nail strikes. The script helps in this regard, by under-explaining events in a way that makes you want to jump out your seat as a viewer and tell the full story in detail. This was the first movie where I realised very clearly this is an effective filmmaking technique, and not a flaw in the script.

On these levels, the story is psychologically horrifying. Technically, it has some real scares, too.

It is a proudly formulaic horror movie, that wants to scare and entertain its audience, and make good use of the…

James Lanternman

Movie reviews, essays, and moonlit thoughts.