It’s the start of horror movie season, and “Smile” is a good way to start your annual fix.

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It’s the start of horror movie season, and “Smile” is a good way to start your annual fix.

Director(s) Parker Finn
Screenplay By Parker Finn
Based On The Short Film “Laura Hasn’t Slept” by Parker Finn
Date Released (In Theaters) September 30, 2022
Genre(s) Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Young Adult
Duration 1 Hour 55 Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Cast
Rose Sosie Bacon
Holly Gillian Zinser
Joel Kyle Gallner
Trevor Jessie T. Usher

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Film Summary

Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Rose and Holly didn’t have the best upbringing. The shared reason is due to the trauma their mother caused, and for Rose, being there when her mom died when she was ten has left a scar on her psyche. But, while Holly handled her trauma by trying to be the mom and wife her mother never was, Rose decided to get into the medical profession and treat people like her mom.

But, while both women found ways to move forward, it could be argued that neither truly dealt with what happened nor fully moved on. For between finding distractions, working 80 hours a week in Rose’s case, and even therapy, it seems the sisters processed just enough to not become debilitated by what happened. Yet, for Rose, a traumatic incident in which a young woman slices her own throat forces her to face her demon, who, like trauma, seems to refuse to die.

Things To Note

Why Is “Smile” Rated R

  • Dialog: Cursing throughout
  • Violence: Grisly images of self-harm, including stab wounds, peeling of the skin, and other disturbing imagery
  • Sexual Content: None
  • Miscellaneous: Drinking galore and depiction of mental health, which may make some uncomfortable

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. What happened to the members of Holly and Rose’s family? Like, what happened to their dad?
  2. What is the origin of this thing that is stalking and traumatizing people?

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.


Holly is the older sister, and while Rose was suffering with their mother, she was gone. She was building a life for herself, something that, growing up, might have seemed like a fantasy. Though, as shown by a slight distaste for her husband, paired with her own struggles with motherhood, the fantasy didn’t come into this new reality as she thought it would.


Between the childhood trauma of how her mother treated her and being there the moment her mom died, Rose has not been the healthiest person mentally or emotionally. However, after years of therapy and education, she has made herself a doctor working in a psychiatric unit and is on the path to being better and creating what she can deem a normal life.


A cop who works out of Newark, NJ, Joel is presented as one of Rose’s first boyfriends who, with her not having the tools to love, pushed him away when things got too serious and he was too close.


Trevor is Rose’s current fiance who works a lot, like Rose, and because of that, they have a nice house in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. But, as time passes, and Rose can no longer maintain her side of the pitch-perfect life he envisions for himself, there is a need to question if he is truly ready to marry Rose for better or worse?


Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive)


Balancing Psychology & Horror

For most horror movies, trauma is the source of everything. It is why the monster exists, either due to dying a horrific death or seeking out those with trauma and either wanting to feed on, help, or kill those with notable trauma. “Smile” is no different, but the being, which isn’t specifically named to be a demon, spirit, or what have you, seems sourced in specific trauma.

Yes, for most, it begins with seeing someone die, but the monster burrows into its host’s head. Rose, for example, is a wealth of trauma as it dives into her issues with her mother and how, even with being a doctor of psychology, she is wary of maintaining a set schedule with her own therapist. And with each face the being takes on, you can see an unhealed trauma in Rose’s life or something she is avoiding and burying right down with everything else that she is unwilling or unable to confront.

Which, in some ways, does make “Smile” feel smarter than your average horror. Not to imply it is cerebral and really pushes you to think, but rather it just as much wants to give you jump scares as it wants you to understand the fear you are experiencing is based on Rose’s personal issues.

Sosie Bacon’s Performance

With speaking of Rose’s issues, there comes a need to praise Sosie Bacon’s performance. Watching someone go from a doctor who is well trained in handling people in crisis to having one of her own, with her face twitching and all kinds of visible ticks, is what pushes you to recognize “Smile” is part of this new wave of horror. A wave that doesn’t want to simply be blood, guts, terrors, nudity, and built-in sequels. What it wants is credible actors at the forefront who can just as much be faceless mediums for you to safely experience fear through as people you want to cheer or feel empathy for.

It’s almost like, through writer/ director Parker Finn and Sosie Bacon, there is a recognition that, if you want people to come to the theater, you can’t just do what has always been done and expect people to show up. You have to elevate your game and challenge your peers to try to outdo you rather than go for the lowest common denominator and hope a few cheap thrills will satisfy the masses.

The Ending

Let me preface this: Not everyone will like or appreciate the ending. I did because happy endings in horror movies are a little too common. But in the case of “Smile,” while there is a victory in the third act, there is a major loss . One which does allow for a sequel, but everyone won’t have the opportunity to return in the flesh.

Low Points

It Overstays Its Welcome

Rose’s investigation into the origins and patterns of the monster, entity, spirit, demon, and what have you, are interesting at first, but because it doesn’t go anywhere, it becomes tiresome. The being doesn’t get a name. We only learn that it feeds off trauma, has killed at least 20 people, and has mainly been known to move about the Americas.

Then, outside of that, while there are creepy moments and jump scares, you could submit “Smile” uses them as a trojan horse. Almost like what Parker Finn really wanted to do was make a movie about one woman’s unresolved trauma, but that couldn’t be sold. So horror elements were added in so a budget could be secured.

So, in many ways, while you have to respect what Bacon and Finn do when it comes to giving “Smile” some weight, if you are a horror fan who just wants to get scared from the safety of the theater, you get what you came for. But you also get a lot you didn’t ask for and, after a certain amount of time, may not want.

On The Fence

Depiction Of Mental Illness

In the times we live in, people aren’t as much getting sensitive but want respect and accountability. So when it comes to the depiction of mental health, it is hard to say where “Smile” sits. Clearly, it is central to the film as trauma directs everything the lead says and does. But, outside of Rose and what she and her therapist say, the gray area comes. Mainly because many of the derogatory terms you can think of are used, and it is hard to appreciate the lack of politically correct terminology when it seems there is a conscious desire to have characters be ignorant. Not to the point of it seeming camp, but it can be eye-roll inducing.

Rose’s Personal Life

Neither Rose’s fiancé, Trevor, nor her apparent ex, Joel, present the kind of relationship you want to see more of. Trevor is the kind of guy you may struggle to understand why he is with Rose. Their chemistry is bland, and honestly, a part of me wonders if Trevor is there for shallow diversity more than anything else. Then with Joel, you can understand he is likely her first love, who met her before she began trying to process her trauma. Thus him coming back around when she is better, and doing what Trevor sometimes refuses to, makes him attractive.

But, again, while Sosie Bacon is good at exploring Rose as an individual, I wouldn’t say as “Smile” tries to address her relationship with Holly or romances, you could as easily praise her performance or Parker Finn’s writing.

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The all red, black smile poster for 'Smile'
Smile (2022) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)
“Smile” signals that horror movies have moved past young girls cast to be tantalizing and graphic deaths to make you squirm. Now there is a desire to reconcile the grotesque with the human condition, which makes the antagonist all the more frightening since they attack what is most vulnerable – the thoughts and feelings in your head.
Balancing Psychology & Horror
Sosie Bacon’s Performance
The Ending
It Overstays Its Welcome
Depiction Of Mental Health
Rose’s Personal Life

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