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The Sinister Grin of the Century

Posted 12/12/2022 by Merry Shukert

Smile’s star Sosie Bacon and production staff, hard at work. photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The new movie Smile put a unique spin on cinematic advertising.

The new horror movie Smile was released on September 30th, just in time for Halloween, and has viewers trembling with fear and at the edge of their seats. The psychological thriller centers around a therapist who witnesses the possession and suicide of one of her patients, which then haunts her in more than one way. Critics called it “disturbed” and “a masterpiece,” but the movie itself isn’t the only scary sight. 

The creative minds behind the film came up with a unique marketing stunt that has gone viral on TikTok and Instagram. After the release, Paramount hired “smilers” to appear at public settings, such as a broadcast of ABC’s Good Morning America, and tightly packed MLB games to display a haunting smile. It immediately went viral on social media, and as bizarre a marketing tactic it is, it worked like a charm. Mere days after the release of Smile, which had been produced on a $17 million budget, it had already made almost $22 million in North American box office ticket sales alone, and is currently grossing more than $200 million worldwide. 

Despite the unique advertising ideas and stunning income numbers, many IMDB reviewers said it seemed like a knockoff of other horror movies with the same idea. One said, “it reminds me so much of The Ring and has a lot of the orthodox methods other horror movies used to incite fear.” Another reviewer explains, “It’s grim and foggy but at the core is the idea that when trauma is passed from person to person it will consume you. With that in hand, director Parker Finn plays on the idea that most people who suffer through awful events in life will have their past consume them if they don’t confront them.” Many of the viewers explain that while it may not have been a very unique horror concept, the jump scares and psychological tricks combined definitely still scared them. 

Many students in the TJ community have seen Smile and their reviews vary across the board. Junior Alex Njegomir wouldn’t consider himself a horror enthusiast, explaining that he went to see the movie because “it looked kinda stupid” and he simply thought it would be “fun” to see. While horror movies aren’t what you would typically consider “fun,” Njegomir explained that the movie and its marketing tactics were still a success. He described how before he saw the movie, he had seen the “smilers” at baseball games in person, which was a unique experience and resulted in his high hopes for the film. Unlike many, Njegomir was a big fan of the jump scares. Njegomir goes on to rate the movie “a five or a six because some of the movie was kind of corny, but there were some good jump scares.” 

While this type of horror may not be for everyone, TJ sophomore Leila Olbricht-Simon liked it more than others. Initially, she had seen an advertisement for it (not the smilers), which made the horror enthusiast in her want to see it. She explains that she thought the idea for “smilers” in public places was “a good strategy to get people interested in the idea of the movie, and get people scared even before they knew more about the movie.” Olbricht-Simon wasn’t the biggest fan of the jump scares, but would still recommend it to others because there was “a lot of suspense that built up to just scary scenes in general. It also had a unique and interesting plot.” While it sure did scare her, she explains that overall, she would rate the film a seven, but only because “some parts were just really slow, and made it a little boring.” 

Despite viewer’s reviews (which are clearly all over the place), it is obvious how phenomenal its success has been this Halloween season. Horror enthusiast or not, give Smile a watch. If nothing else, it was unanimously agreed upon that it was one thing: scary.