I’ll start this review with a compliment: the publicity people for the new horror movie “Smile” did a great job. For months, I had been successfully pissed off by the various posters, commercials, and trailers for this film that had conditioned me to look away from even the slightest hint of a creepy grin. In hindsight, I probably should have known something was wrong when the film’s All Audiences green band trailer was much scarier than its restricted red band. While the red stripe trailer showed off the film’s gore and was jump scary, the green stripe abruptly cut a smile and then ended, leaving me with a shock that I had no time to to deal with, but that has undeniably stuck with me. . The film, of course, couldn’t claim the same brevity, wasting 115 minutes of my time failing to deliver on the very promise of its print ads.

The story follows Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon, trying her best to make this flat protagonist memorable). She’s the top psychologist at her hospital, though she’s a bit of a mess herself, with unresolved childhood traumas and difficulty navigating the medical bureaucracy embodied by her boss, Dr. Desai (Kal Penn, lost in an insignificant role). Daily difficulties are difficult, but she can handle them. The darkness of his past… is best removed.

One day, Rose is tasked with caring for Laura (Caitlin Stasey, whose eyes and mouth are deftly expressive, before the horror elements even kick in). The poor medical student has been seeing haunting smiles everywhere since she witnessed a suicide a few days ago, oddly enough by a smiling person, who had also seen a suicide by a smiling person a few days earlier. Soon it was Rose who witnessed a suicide and now she sees unearthly smiles. The condition affects her relationship with her fiancé Trevor (Jessie T. Usher) and her sister Holly (Gillian Zinser) and fundamentally ruins her life while threatening to end it. Unfortunately, the only person who believes Rose isn’t crazy is her ex-boyfriend Joel (Kyle Gallner). Can Rose find a way to break the apparent chain, perhaps by facing her own demons?

This film has no original bones in its body. The “chain of victims” element is ripped from “It Follows” and “The Ring”, and a particularly derivative fear is taken from the latter. The focus on confronting childhood trauma is reminiscent of “Hereditary” and “The Night House” without the atmospheric elements that made those films work. A scene at a birthday party had me mumbling, “Oh, just like ‘Fatal Attraction’.” Even smiling was the basis of scares in 2018’s “Truth or Dare.”

But the biggest sin of “Smile” is that it just isn’t scary. The movie has to rely on fake jump scares like a burglar alarm and even opening a can of cat food because it knows it can’t pull off scenes with real danger or violence. . A bad dream streak cannot be taken seriously because Rose would never act that way. And the smile is never managed with the expert timing implied by the film’s publicity. In fact, there’s an element of horror that the film does well, and that’s the score. If you stay in the credits, you will hear well-paced music. The problem, of course, is that even more time would have to be spent on this film that has already wasted so much. My mouth was in a bored frown for most of this movie, he wasn’t screaming or laughing and he certainly wasn’t smiling.

Rating: D

“Smile” is rated R for strong violent content and gruesome imagery and language. Its operating time is 115 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at [email protected]

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