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Clever, creepy, and gory, SMILE is a ton of fun for horror fans.

Originally slated for streaming on Paramount+, test audiences loved this fright flick and Paramount debuted it in theatres instead, where it scared up $216 million at the box office.

Believable newcomer Sosie Bacon plays Dr. Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist that witnesses a horrifying suicide by a distraught patient who swears something is following her.

That patient herself witnessed a horrible suicide the week before.

Rose is pulled into a terrifying curse involving a relentless demon that will stop at nothing in pursuit of its next victim.

With echoes of 2014’s “It Follows” by David Robert Mitchell, the innocent victims in the path of the entity seem to have no escape but death. Rose’s spiral from admired doctor to terrified victim is well written and believable, or at least as believable as these things get!

Sosie Bacon is a force of nature as the opposite of all those helpless victims in classic 70’s slasher flicks.

Jessie T. Usher (The Boys) is very good as Sosie’s social climbing boyfriend, Kyle Gallner (Scream) is even better as her cop ex-boyfriend that is drawn into the increasing mayhem around Rose and Robin Weigert (Deadwood: The Movie) delivers as Rose’s friend and therapist, Dr. Northcott.

Their face off near the end of Rose’s decline into her own private hell is perfectly written and executed by writer/director Parker Finn. Finn is new on the scene but executes a clinic on how to deliver a big film on a $17 million budget. From first shot to last, Finn grabs you and never lets go, providing a few laughs and plenty of jaw dropping moments, sometimes when you least expect them.

He's got a few clever style choices up his sleeve as well. Note the color palette of the cursed characters versus Rose’s wardrobe. Sticking with mostly non-CGI effects, the scares feel more realistic and yes, all those smiles are the real thing. He also pulls a Friedkin “Exorcist” move with several unexpected flashes of horrifying images that unsettle you even more, filling you with dread that they’ll happen again.

Typically, my biggest complaint with this genre is that the finale never quite lives up to the set up, but I loved the ending(s?) here. One shot features the most disturbing images of something evil physically entering someone’s body I’ve seen since Craig T. Nelson barfed up that giant worm in “Poltergeist II”.

With some powerful dramatic moments dealing with grief, guilt, and the trauma of witnessing a violent death, Finn brilliantly grounds the scares.

For horror fans, SMILE is a fast, smart, and BLOODY thriller that lands a solid B+.

I’m already looking forward to the sequel. No way we’ve seen the last of that grin……..

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