This is the third film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2023-24", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 9th annual challenge, and my fifth time participating (previous years can be found at "2019-20", "2020-21", "2021-22", and "2022-23"). Week 3 is called "Letterboxd List Battles!: Litterboxd vs. Letterbarkd":
"I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior." – Hippolyte Taine
"Dogs have boundless enthusiasm but no sense of shame. I should have a dog as a life coach." – Moby
"Way down deep, we’re all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them." – Jim Davis
"If I could be half the person my dog is, I’d be twice the human I am." – Charles Yu
"Dogs and cats living together! Mass Hysteria!" – Peter Venkman
It's a dispute as old as time: dogs or cats? For this week's challenge, your friendly hosts are cruelly forcing you to choose between man's best friend and man's indifferent roommate. For those who are dog people, fetch a film from Rembrandt Q Pumpernickel's Letterbarkd list. Cat lovers can curl up with a selection from Hollie Horror's Litterboxd list. And if you cannot possibly choose between the two—your animal-loving heart torn asunder at the thought—spread the love like a canine, disregard the rules like a feline, and watch one of each. That's right, Venkman, mass hysteria!
We are a cat family. Have been all of our lives. So you know which list I chose. Of course, Smile isn't a movie about a cat, but a cat plays a significant role. Smile is a very effective horror film, enough so that it makes you wonder why we choose to watch such movies in the first place. It's an uncomfortable watch, but then, that's why many people like horror ... we get giddy with nervous anticipation.
I wouldn't call Smile unique or original. Parker Finn knows how to hit his spots, and the angle (evil represented in smiling faces) is just unusual enough to make a difference. We recognize the tropes as they come along, but they are new to the characters, so their actions are not driven by what we in the audience know ... they don't know they are in a horror film. It's a very tense movie, at times unbearably so, which is all to the good. It's too long by a bit, but the tension peaks as the film ends, so you won't be looking at your watch.
Sosie Bacon is great. It's the first movie I've seen her in, and she carries it like a champ. The events of the film wear on her character, and you see it in her face ... she seems to be getting thinner and more wasted by the minute. I've seen some reviews that credit Finn for offering a study of grief and guilt in the midst of the horror, but I think that's a stretch ... it's a fine horror movie, but a person could write a doctoral dissertation on the ultimate meaning of The Babadook, while Smile just delivers as a strong genre effort. For me, it's not a diss to say it's not quite as good as The Babadook. Not many modern horror films are.