2022 has been an incredibly good year for horror hounds. With such jewels as X, Prey, The Black Phone, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Nope, and most recently Pearl having already scared up plenty of attention this year, it’s quite an unexpected surprise that we get yet another gem to add to the year’s bulging list of horror must-sees.

Built out from his festival-favorite short film Laura Hasn’t Slept, and representing his feature film directing and writing debut, Parker Finn’s Smile comes at us with more than its fair share of genuinely hair-raising moments. His film, without question, deserves a spot on this year’s list of horror bests, and instantaneously vaults Finn into the horror spotlight. Keep an eye on this guy.

"keeps us unbalanced and slightly askew the entire time"

Though not totally original and often a bit too reliant on pesky dream sequences that may or may not be reality, his film effectively utilizes supernatural elements, intelligent fake-outs, and even some well-timed jump scares to prey upon the psychological horrors that haunt us all. Though Finn does run through some familiar horror tropes, it’s his use of a genuinely creepy atmosphere that keeps us unbalanced and slightly askew the entire time.

Smile is a rather old-fashioned horror film in that it relies on terror that emanates from within the human mind rather than from some deranged knife-wielding monster - even though knives get plenty of screen time. Chills come from things seen barely off screen, or shadows in the background. However, when it’s time for in-your-face horror, Finn’s use of some wicked cool practical effects from makeup effects master Tom Woodruff, Jr. (The Predator, Godzilla vs. Kong) are both extremely imaginative and genuinely scary.

As the film opens, we meet Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon - daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick), a frazzled, over-worked emergency therapist who accepts one last patient at the end of her busy shift at a local psychiatric hospital.Smile

The young woman (Caitlin Stacey, Laura Hasn’t Slept) is hysterical as she talks about witnessing her college professor bludgeon himself to death with a hammer a few days earlier. If that weren’t traumatizing enough, she goes on and on about some invisible force that has taken over and is hiding inside her.

As Rose watches in horror, the young woman tips her head forward, contorts her face into a distorted smile, then slices her throat open with a piece of broken glass. Finn’s camera holds nothing back. We watch in horror as her throat opens up and buckets of blood stream down the woman’s body as she crumples into a heap on the floor. Still having trouble shaking this one.

We don’t know why or what caused her to do it, but we spend the remainder of the film trying to figure it out. Whatever it was, it is contagious, causing a chain reaction as it infects the next person who witnessed the smile, giving them about a week before they hand it off to the next victim… and so on. At this point, Smile becomes somewhat of a mystery as Rose, along with ex-boyfriend and now police detective (Kyle Gallner) delves deeper into why she has begun to experience anxiety, hallucinations, and visions.

Sure, it’s actually a pretty silly premise, but Finn’s deft direction, whip-smart script, and technical prowess always keeps things fun and engaging as we watch – through parted fingers – Rose’s life unravel. As the final scene fades to black and the credits roll, Finn runs a certain bright and cheerful pop song (I won’t spoil it here) under the rolling credits. Yet one more cunningly disarming tactic to keep us just a touch off kilter as we walk to the parking lot.

4/5 stars

Film Details


MPAA Rating: R for strong violent content and grisly images, and language.
115 mins
: Parker Finn
Parker Finn
Sosie Bacon; Jessie T. Usher; Kyle Gallner
: Horror | Thriller
Once you See it, it's too late.
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 30, 2022
DVD/4K UHD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can't explain. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.