When one of the doctor’s patients kills themselves grinning in front of her, she inexplicably returns to work the next day and sees the smirking face again. And again. For almost two hours. There is clearly not enough smileage in this gurning premise to sustain a feature, leaving director Parker Finn to pad out his earlier short film with useless drone shots, tedious arguments and every curse movie cliché in the plagiarist’s playbook. When you are so bereft of ideas you start ripping off Truth or Dare and Venom, it is time to look in the mirror (for something other than an obvious jump scare).
It is almost impressive to make a film that is simultaneously too serious and too daft, yet neither serious nor daft enough to be either interesting or entertaining. As in Midsommar, the attempts to say something about PTSD and gaslighting are obliterated by an unwittingly laughable approach. And like Men, any hint of allegory is lost to a curse that literally feeds off trauma. Horror films don’t need to keep saying “trauma”. We know what a horror film is.
Smile (Yawn would be more appropriate) is what happens when you have a face instead of a concept. It is messy yet sterile (the only thing more pointless than CGI gore is CGI gore when we know it’s a dream sequence), led by an unconvincing protagonist who has decided to leave her childhood home abandoned for almost 30 years. By the time she starts Googling the curse, we start playing “What were they in?” (Carla from Scrubs, Cassidy from Veronica Mars etc) and wishing that Smile was more like the Beach Boys album of the same name: unreleased.