Though taking on certain plot points from horror movies such as “The Ring,” “Smile” begins with a premise all its own, before crumbling in a truly awful ending that ended up surmounting any positives one could have taken from the beginning of the film.
The movie begins with Dr. Rose Cotter, an emergency room psychiatrist who’s been working 80 hour weeks, getting ready to leave for the day. She receives a last-minute call at her desk about a patient who has just arrived displaying erratic behavior.
While sitting down with the patient, Laura, she begins to pour her heart out about an entity that’s been harassing her the last few days. Something that has been revealing itself in people, strangers and close friends, always smiling disturbingly.
Laura reveals that the entity has told her she will die that day, and she then promptly proceeds to viciously kill herself with a shard of glass from a broken flower vase, creepily smiling as she does so. Unbeknownst to Rose, her presence transfers the entity to herself as she watches her patient’s suicide.
As the creature, now connected to Rose, makes itself known in well-timed jump scares, creepy phone calls and (maybe) killing a beloved cat, Rose enlists the help of her cop ex-boyfriend to try and help her break the curse. The only solution Rose finds, is to kill another person which will then pass the curse onto whoever witnesses the murder. However, she dismisses the thought immediately.
Sweeping the undertones of the movie is the concept of trauma, one that “Smile” suggests we can never escape from. The smiling demon takes its form and targets people who have trauma that they have not accepted, linking each victim to the next because everyone has some sort of trauma they deal with daily.
In a final attempt to save herself from the horrors of the smiling entity, Rose hides out in her childhood home alone, covering all the windows, preparing to remain there, in order to save others from ever witnessing the horrors of the smile.
But in a twist that probably most people saw coming, that doesn’t stop the smile demon, who reveals to Rose that she can’t escape her own mind, and later crawls inside her mouth to possess her. Rose then succumbs to the demon and lights a match to burn herself alive, all while her ex-boyfriend, who has tracked her down, looks on, transferring the curse onto him.
As we left the theater, my friends and I tried to pinpoint exactly why we were so underwhelmed with this ending. Was it that the demon ended up looking like a skeleton version of Momo? Or was it the laughable editing that made the demon dance around like a child’s audition tape for the Disney Channel classic “Shake it Off”?
The thing that really made me dislike “Smile” was really the unoriginal ending that the characters have been desperately trying to avoid in its whole 115-minute runtime, that we the audience had hoped would come to an interesting conclusion. No! The movie ends with the curse and the smile demon continuing on their merry way. So, what was the point of all this?
Perhaps it is true that we can never escape our trauma, trauma that the smile demon feeds on. However, this could’ve been portrayed more interestingly than the demon merely overpowering Rose in a physical struggle and possessing her. That just proves that the demon couldn’t mentally conquer Rose in the end. The demon breaks its own rules for the curse to carry on.
While not every movie must have a happy ending to be considered complete or worthwhile if you ask me, the ending – and “Smile” itself – was a patched-up way to ensure a sequel and the continuation of a series.
As the Chordettes’ famous song “Lollipop” played out the credits, it appeared that maybe the joyful tune was director/writer Parker Finn’s way of distracting us from the fact that even he could not come up with anything more creative to conclude the movie.
So in conclusion: everyone, please go to therapy.