7.5/10 With most modern day horror offerings bringing us some of the worst movie going experiences of the year (basically every vampire related movie in 2022 has been trash), we have finally been rewarded with the one-two punch of “Barbarian” and now “Smile”, which I enjoyed even more. Before I point out why this is easily the best horror film of 2022, I will get the negatives out of the way first. As much as I enjoyed this film, it does borrow rather heavily from several other films. In both this film and “The Ring”, you experience something (watching a tape vs. seeing someone commit suicide) and have up to one week (sometimes less in “Smile”) before you die and your face gets mutilated in the process. While this film is most similar to “The Ring”, there are also shades of “It Follows” (an entity getting passed on with the only option of breaking the cycle to do something horrible) and “The Happening” (people uncontrollably taking their own lives). While basically every film borrows from other films and can still be great (look at Quentin Tarantino’s body of work), some of these similarities do stick out like a creepy smile at a funeral. There are also several predictable moments, a few too many jump scares (which the film doesn’t need) and some unrealistic moments like a psychiatric ward having breakable glass (in the form of a vase) accessable to potentially suicidal people. Those valid complaints aside, this film still is able to accomplish a lot and for me was the scariest film of 2022 thus far (looking at what other horror films are to be released in the last months of the year don’t inspire confidence that anything will top this). The reason this film shouldn’t have to rely on jump scares as frequently as it does is because the film is already creepy enough and has such an unsettling tone to where that should be enough to freak out audiences. I see a ton of horror films and am therefore extremely desensitized but even this film got under my skin. Part of that could be because the horror within the film comes from within each character’s mind and there is no way for any of us to escape our minds (despite our best efforts). Trauma is the main theme of the film and how evil attaches itself to these individuals with some of the most/worst trauma. While I am lucky in many ways and had a solid childhood upbringing for example, I myself have have had my own run-ins with trauma so I could relate to that aspect, as I am sure many viewers can. While the themes are timely and relevant and the tone established by first time feature length writer/director Parker Finn (he adapted this film off of his 2020 short film “Laura Hasn’t Slept”) is disturbing, the positives don’t end there. The film has one of the best scores, not just in horror films lately, but of all of 2022 thus far. The score is incredibly stomach churning and brilliantly morphs with the film’s sound design and sound mixing, incorporating disturbing noises to really unsettle the audience. Leading actress Sosie Bacon (if only her name was Saucy Bacon), who is the daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick is incredible in the film. I often become pessimistic when it comes to the children of Hollywood royalty, assuming (sometimes correctly) that nepotism and their parents are the only reason they landed their acting gigs. If “Smile” is anything to go off of (I haven’t seen her other work), Bacon is a fantastic and talented leading lady and this makes me want to look into some of her other film and TV roles. The rest of the supporting cast is great too but this is Bacon’s film from start to finish. The visuals are also incredible and despite the ending being predictable, it was still unsettling due to the creature designs on display. With the ending of Alex Garland’s “Men” earlier this year and now the horrors we see come alive during the climax of “Smile”, we have been blessed…or maybe cursed…with some horrific imagery to have seared into our brains this year. It is hard to believe that this film almost went straight to Paramount+ but I am glad I got the full communal experience of seeing the best horror film of the year in a crowded theater, the way horror films are meant to be seen. Paramount continues to have an incredible year and I look forward to Parker Finn’s future films. To quote Thanos as I watched this film…“This does put a smile on my face.”

#TheGoldenGlobeForBestMotionPictureTraumaGoesTo / #ThisFilmIsBringingHomeTheBacon / #ISmileBack2 / #LetsPutASmileOnThatFace / #SmileMForMurder / #SmilesAndTribulations

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