As the Spooky Season of 2022 dawned, Smile graced the theaters, plunging horror enthusiasts into a truly chilling atmosphere filled with some of the year’s most spine-tingling scares. This marks the feature debut of writer and director Parker Finn, and it’s poised to be one of the standout horror films of the year. With a well-crafted script that both pays homage to classic horror tropes and introduces fresh elements, Smile delivers a unique evil entity that will haunt your nightmares. This malevolent force, known as Smile, is a manifestation of trauma that hops from one host to another in its relentless quest for new victims.
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However, Smile’s ability to manipulate the perception of its victims, making them see people and places that aren’t real, can leave viewers somewhat bewildered by the movie’s conclusion. In the climactic showdown between Dr. Rose Cotter (played by Sosie Bacon) and the sinister entity, the line between reality and hallucination blurs, given the relentless mental assault Rose endures. To shed light on this, we’ve put together an insightful explainer that unravels the enigmatic ending of Smile while also delving into the rules governing this dark and malevolent entity.
‘Smile’ Entity Explained
“Smile” introduces us to the unsettling journey of Dr. Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist whose life takes a chilling turn after she bears witness to the gruesome suicide of her patient, Laura, portrayed by Caitlin Stasey. Laura’s horrifying act involved the use of a flower vase shard to slice her own throat. In her final moments, Laura disclosed to Dr. Cotter the relentless pursuit of an evil entity that haunted her every move. As Dr. Cotter herself begins to experience eerily similar hallucinations, she embarks on a relentless quest to unravel the sinister mysteries that lie beneath the surface.
In the eerie world of “Smile,” trauma manifests as a shapeshifting apparition—a malevolent force that inflicts relentless terror upon its victims until their fragile minds shatter into pieces. Once the victims succumb entirely to the entity’s sinister influence, they relinquish control of their bodies, compelled to commit gruesome acts of self-destruction in front of unwitting witnesses. These traumatized witnesses then become the new targets of the entity, perpetuating an unending cycle of psychological torment. The grim spirit thrives on this chain of trauma, affecting the mental health of others in a ceaseless spiral. While suicide appears to be an inescapable fate within this nightmarish cycle, a chilling alternative exists: individuals can, of their own free will, deliberately scar another person’s mind, thus avoiding the entity’s relentless pursuit.
Amid her relentless quest for answers, Dr. Cotter crosses paths with Robert, portrayed by Rob Morgan—the sole survivor of the cursed trauma. Robert now languishes in jail for a gruesome murder he committed before an innocent witness. His horrifying act satisfied the insatiable entity of “Smile,” which chose to leap to a new witness instead of exacting vengeance upon the current host. Faced with an agonizing choice, Rose confronts only two options: passively await the entity’s possession, leading to her gruesome demise, or commit a heinous act against another human being. However, Rose daringly opts for an alternative path—she sequesters herself within an isolated house, determined to confront her deepest trauma head-on.
“Smile” weaves a spine-tingling narrative that explores the depths of the human psyche, interweaving themes of survival, sacrifice, and the relentless quest for liberation from the clutches of an insidious malevolence.
Dr. Cotter vs. Trauma
In the chilling narrative of “Smile,” Dr. Rose Cotter’s profound trauma serves as a sinister invitation for the malevolent entity haunting her. This dark entity finds her to be an irresistible prey due to the heavy emotional baggage she carries from her past. Dr. Cotter’s traumatic experience unfolded when she was a mere ten years old, helplessly witnessing her mother, portrayed by Dora Kiss, succumb to a tragic fate. Her mother’s demise resulted from a harrowing mixture of pills and alcohol—an event that forever etched its traumatic mark onto the young girl’s psyche.
This traumatic incident left an indelible imprint on Dr. Cotter’s life, ultimately influencing her career choice in the field of mental health. Her desire to help others grapple with their own mental health struggles was, in part, fueled by the haunting memory of her mother’s tragic end.
When Dr. Cotter decides to confront the demons of her past, she embarks on a courageous journey into the abandoned house where she once bore witness to her mother’s suicide. This decrepit, forsaken dwelling now stands as a chilling backdrop to her confrontation with the malevolent entity that torments her. Within these decaying walls, Smile’s insidious presence takes on the haunting visage of Rose’s mother. The entity compels Rose to relive the defining moment that has haunted her existence. Shockingly, it’s revealed that Rose discovered her mother while she was still alive, but instead of seeking help, the young Rose fled in fear, leaving her mother to face her demons alone. The weight of guilt stemming from her actions has burdened Rose throughout her life, manifesting in her tireless efforts to support her patients, even at the cost of her own well-being.
While Rose acknowledges her role in her mother’s tragic fate, she also recognizes the circumstances surrounding her young self at the time. She was but a ten-year-old, constantly plagued by fear due to her mother’s erratic behavior. Armed with her newfound understanding of the complexities of the human mind, Rose absolves herself of the guilt and self-blame that has tormented her for years. She believes that this act of forgiveness will weaken the malevolent entity that plagues her. To her shock, the spirit responds with grotesque transformation, twisting her mother’s image into a monstrous, nightmarish form. Undeterred, Rose summons her inner strength to engage in a climactic final battle, knowing that trauma exists only within the confines of her own mind. Ultimately, Rose prevails, vanquishing the entity once and for all.
“Smile” artfully weaves a narrative that delves into the intricate layers of trauma, guilt, and redemption. Dr. Rose Cotter’s journey serves as a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the power of self-forgiveness in the face of haunting adversity.
However, just as Rose believes she has escaped the clutches of the malevolent entity, a cruel twist of fate awaits her. She visits her former boyfriend, Joel, portrayed by Kyle Gallner, seeking reconciliation. Rose had ended their relationship in the past, driven by her fear of vulnerability and a desire to keep people at a distance due to the guilt she carried for her mother’s death. Yet, her harrowing experience has compelled her to confront her past and make amends.
However, the malevolent entity is not finished with Rose. In a nightmarish turn of events, it becomes clear that Rose never left her mother’s forsaken house. The creature subjects her to one final torment, manipulating her reality and trapping her within its malevolent grasp. The real Joel arrives at the house, intending to rescue Rose from her torment. Instead of rekindling their love, his presence unwittingly provides the entity with the opportunity to perpetuate its curse. The entity seizes control of Rose’s body, dousing her in gasoline and igniting a match. As Rose’s body burns, a sinister smile on her face, Joel is left traumatized by the horrifying spectacle before him.
Rose’s sacrifice ultimately becomes a conduit for the entity to claim its next victim—Joel. In the end, the relentless cycle of trauma and torment continues, with no apparent escape from its grasp.
“Smile” serves as a harrowing exploration of the enduring impact of trauma and the inescapable horrors it can inflict upon its victims, leaving an indelible mark on their lives.