Salty Air

‘Smile’ leaves you feeling jumpy–Play It Again, Tim

Written by Tim Miller

Say “Cheese”!

Um, on second thought, don’t.

After seeing the new horror flick “Smile” (R, 115 minutes, in theaters), you probably won’t want to encourage anyone to flash their chompers. The deranged, toothy grins on the faces of people real or imagined provide the scariest moments in this frightfest.

Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon, daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick) witnesses a patient (Caitlin Stasey) smiling like a possessed character in a toothpaste ad and then slicing a new, bloody smile across her neck.

A patient (Caitlin Stasey) flashes her pearly whites in “Smile.” (Paramount Pictures)

The gruesome, terrifying suicide is bad enough, but then Rose realizes that it’s the gift that keeps on giving. There’s a horrific pattern going on in which, like a chain letter (only, if you can imagine it, worse) in which one nightmarish suicide leads to another.

Those people unlucky enough to find themselves joining this conga line of death have trouble convincing anyone else that this curse – or whatever you want to call it – is real and that they aren’t out of their minds.

(Think about it. Somebody comes up to you and says, “Hey, I’m really stressin’ because I’m seeing all these visions of creepy people with insane smiles, and I think I’m going to die myself, by my own hand, any day now.” You’d probably be slow to accept this, too, right? I mean, unless you’ve already gone through something similar.)

Sure enough, Rose winds up with this mysterious affliction and struggles to figure it out. Meanwhile, she keeps having flashbacks of her mother killing herself back when Rose was a kid.

What’s going on? I can’t give that away, of course, but I will say I don’t think I ever got a satisfying answer. As “Smile”  – written and directed by Parker Finn in his feature-film debut – trudges its way toward its vague ending, there are lots of jump-scares, more than one followed by the old standby of someone bolting upright in bed in reaction to a nightmare. Even the abrupt opening of a can of food for Rose’s pet, Mustache the Cat, is jarring. Scaaaaary. (I kept hoping Mustache would look up at Rose with one of those nutty smiles. No such luck.)

“Smile” deserves the all-too-common backhanded compliment that it’s “Not bad for what it is.” If you’re looking for spooky thrills or a few cheap jolts, you might enjoy this. If you’re looking for something more substantial, look elsewhere. **½ (out of four)

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim Miller

Play It Again, Tim

Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He also teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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