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How Smile escaped the curse of the cursed films

Updated: May 26, 2023

Smile is a 2022 horror movie about a psychiatrist who witnesses the bizarre "smiling" death of a woman only to find herself cursed to suffer the same fate as a result.

How refreshing to see an original horror movie in this day and age of shitty remakes and shittier sequels (please stop with Halloween movies for all of our sakes). My broken faith is why I kept passing by Smile before deciding one night to give it a go. I knew nothing about this movie because, as a general rule, I don’t watch trailers because these days they tell you the whole damn movie. Also the algorithm overlords didn’t serve me any ads about Smile, even though my search habits clearly indicate I’m either a serial killer or a horror author.

So I went into this one blind with my expectations set lower than they were for the last Halloween movie.

I was wrong.

Like the best/worst panic attack from the get-go

Smile had me schwetting within the first ten minutes and it didn’t let up. I was stressed, and I liked it.

One of the reason’s this story’s high tension works well is because I immediately cared about the main character Rose, a selfless psychiatrist working in a hospital and dealing with psychiatric emergencies, as opposed to the aloof “shrink” character sitting across from you on the couch saying, “And how does that make you feel?” Because I cared about Rose, I wanted her to succeed in fighting the evil pursuing her.

Finding a way to make your audience care about your characters is something that every story needs in the setup. Especially horror. It isn’t enough to rely on the stakes, which are predetermined in horror: dying or going insane. No one cares when the blonde bimbo or horny bro are fighting for their lives just because. In fact, empty characters deserve to die.

Bottomline: we need to care about the characters before we invest in their fight.

The curse of cursed narrative

Horror movies about curses can sometimes lag in the latter half of the second act when the evil thing pursuing the cursed character gets stale. It Follows and The Grudge are two horror movies I liked overall, but found about halfway through that I got a little bored.

But all-in-all, Smile kept me engaged all the way through. I think this worked because, though the evil entity in it was bound to certain rules (e.g., only Rose can see it), it kept manifesting in different ways that kept me interested, including through Rose’s own personal trauma from the past.

Hooray for original horror concepts

Though Smile follows the curse story template pretty closely, it was freshly done so that I wasn’t aware of it. And yas queen for an original movie that hit big at the box office! This means the studios will keep investing in horror films that aren’t shitty sequels and shittier remakes.

And the moral of the story is

Smiles are overrated. Embrace your resting bitch face.


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