Smile 2


In a cross talk, two writers sit down to discuss a book, movie, TV show, or piece of art they both feel strongly about. Sometimes they disagree; other times, they’re in perfect harmony. Here, Executive Editor Jem Shin and News Editor Kat Struhar discuss “Smile,” a supernatural horror film written and directed by Parker Finn.

“Smile” follows Dr. Rose Cutter, who receives a curse after witnessing the brutal suicide of one of her patients. She discovers a pattern in the curse’s spread, observing that it passes from person to person when the next victim watches an afflicted person either kill themself or kill someone else. As Rose descends into madness, doubting the reality of her surroundings and losing trust in both herself and those around her, she struggles to simultaneously break the curse and work through the childhood trauma of watching her mother overdose. 

This article contains spoilers for “Smile” and has been edited for length and clarity.

Kat Struhar: So we watched “Smile” yesterday. What did you think of it?

Jem Shin: I thought it was very scary. Horrifying, in fact.

KS: I felt like it was scary, mostly because of the jump scares, but it did not impact me in any way. It’s not gonna stick with me for weeks. I’m not gonna be thinking about the smile demon when I’m alone in the dark. 

JS: See, you say that, but when we walked out of the theater and I saw a man smile, I ran into the bathroom. 

KS: Honestly, the curse is kind of hard to explain. I felt a little bit unclear [on] how it worked.

JS: I feel like it was kind of easy to understand. 

KS: Why was that one guy able to escape it by committing a murder?

JS: Because he killed somebody else and then somebody witnessed him committing [the] murder. 

KS: But how come nobody else did that? And how does [the curse] end? They were talking about how there was another [smile curse] in a different country. So it’s able to end somehow, isn’t it? 

JS: It ends when you die but nobody else is there to see it. So that’s what [Rose] was trying to do. 

KS: But she failed.

JS: She really failed.

KS: If we’re gonna talk about the ending, I’m not a huge fan of the dream sequence ending trope where it’s like, “Haha, just kidding. This entire thing was a hallucination.” I just feel like it’s something that’s been done over and over. 

JS: I didn’t like the ending either. Also, I wasn’t looking at the ending ’cause I was too scared to watch the movie at that point. But it didn’t sound fun.

KS: On the topic of “Smile” being something that’s been done over and over again, the entire movie kind of felt that way because the idea of something following you around, like a curse or a demon or something, is not a new thing. [For example,] in “It Follows” or “The Ring.” 

JS: But I think it was still scary. 

KS: Yeah, it’s still worth watching. It just wasn’t outstanding.

I did kind of feel like there was something I was missing about the metaphorical meaning of the smile curse. Rose witnessed her mother’s overdose and didn’t save her even though she could have, and that gave her some sort of trauma. They mentioned the word trauma a lot in this movie. [And] one of the other guys who had the curse also witnessed his brother’s death, years before he got the smile curse.

So it felt like the demon itself was a manifestation of some sort of trauma or mental illness. But I don’t know. I just felt like that side of the story was not super clear. Or maybe it was and I just missed it. 

JS: No, I didn’t really get it. I think it could have been more fleshed out. There’s a lot of flashbacks to her as a kid, watching her mom die, but her relationship with her sister isn’t super well-explained. Then she brings her dead cat to her nephew’s birthday party and gives it to him.

KS: The dead cat came out of nowhere. But that goes back to what the smile curse even is. Because sometimes it’s just on people’s faces, but sometimes those people aren’t real. And apparently [the curse can] also do things like kill a cat, somehow. Is it inhabiting someone’s body to kill the cat? How did that happen? We don’t really know. 

I think also a really big theme of the movie was deciphering what is real and what isn’t. ’Cause in the opening scene when she’s talking to one of her patients, she tells him, “Oh, this isn’t real.” But then she slowly loses her ability to tell what’s real. I appreciated that part of the movie. I just wish that as an audience, we had a little bit more of a grasp of what parts were real and which ones weren’t. ’Cause the smile demon is real in the movie, but only to [Rose]. And the ending wasn’t real. 

JS: Which ending? 

KS: The first ending. 

JS: So then where did the policeman go? Her ex-boyfriend. They used to date and now she has a fiancé, who is rightfully kind of concerned that she’s going crazy.

KS: She isolates herself from her fiancé and her sister, which I think is supposed to be part of the metaphor about mental illness. 

It’s a scary movie. It’s just not the best scary movie in the world. The jump scares were okay. The jump scares were scary, [but] I also felt that they might have been a little bit corny. 

JS: I thought all the jump scares were terrifying. I was yelping. 

KS: You were yelping.

JS: I thought at the end she was gonna pass the smile on to the audience. Like, it was gonna break the fourth wall and she was gonna look at us and smile herself. But they didn’t do that. 

KS: That would’ve been a cool ending. It would’ve been kind of like “Truth or Dare.” Honestly, the amount of horror movies that this movie is kind of like is a little bit crazy. 

So in conclusion, watch if you want. It’s not going to change your life, most likely. But it’ll be scary.

JS: It’s so scary. 


Jem Shin can be reached at

Kat Struhar can be reached at 

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