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Smile (2022)

There is no denying that 'Smile' has drawn heavy inspiration from a multitude of films that follow a similar premise, such as, 'It Follows', 'Truth or Dare' and even 'The Ring'. And whilst taking a lot of key elements from these films within the horror genre, I don't think I've seen it done half as well as I have here. Developing a more in depth look into its lore and possible deviations to the link, I found this take to be much more captivating than other films that try to adapt the same concept. Lead actress Sosie Bacon (fun fact - this is actor Kevin Bacon's daughter) does a fantastic job of carrying this film. She is an actress i'm not very familiar with anything prior to her role here, yet would love to see more from her in horror roles in the future. Alongside Bacon, there is a great supporting cast, with standout bit-part performances from Kyle Gallner, Rob Morgan, Judy Reyes and even Kal Penn. However, it is Caitlin Stacey's brief yet outstanding performance as Laura that really stood out amongst the crowd. She shows such incredible range with the limited screen time she has. I was in genuine awe of her capabilities as an actress here and really wish she had been given a more prominent role. One key element that enhances the sense of impending threat is the cinematography helmed by Charlie Sarroff. Sarroff frames shots in a way that has you constantly searching the backdrop for any form of movement, then contrastingly using heavy close up shots of characters making you instantly question what is going to be behind them once they move out of frame. Another noteworthy element of his cinematography is the use of beautiful long panning landscape shots, which is slowly rotated upside down. This creates an instant uneasy tone to the movie whenever it is utilised. As expected, there are some rather poor looking CGI effects that are used throughout. Annoyingly, it seems to me these effects could quite easily be replaced with more impactful and better looking practical effects, resulting in a stronger overall execution of this story. This is just a small issue I have with this film and it never really detracted from my enjoyment, just something that in hindsight I feel could have been handled differently. I can honestly say it has been a very long time since I have seen a film that has put me in a state of constant suspension from start to finish. 'Smile' has an incredible way of keeping you on the edge of your seat by building tension to an almost unbearable level. And although the majority of the time this results in some form of jump scare, it never once feels cheap and lazy like most jump scares so often do. This is without doubt one of the biggest surprises of the year and a strong recommendation to those, who like me, expected nothing more than a generic supernatural horror movie.


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