It's been quite the year for horror fans, who've been dining out on the acclaimed likes of Scream, X, The Black Phone, Nope, Prey, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Barbarian, and Pearl, to name just a few.
But it's fair to say that few were expecting all that much from Smile, the filmmaking debut of writer-director Parker Finn, which has largely been marketed as a schlocky, low-effort genre offering in the vein of 2018's wretched Truth or Dare.
Yet armed with an R-rating and more importantly a skilled cast and crew, it's a pleasure to report that Smile is one of the year's biggest surprises so far, regardless of genre.
While hardly a towering effort on the level of the year's best horror flicks, Smile modestly splits the difference between the demands of grisly studio fare and something more cerebral and unsettling you'd expect from the "arthouse" realm.
For a film many had written off from the marketing alone, that's quite the achievement, and needless to say, Smile is much better than its lousy trailers would have you believe.
But first, here's where it nevertheless falls a little short...