Screencap From the Trailer for Smile (2022)

SPOOKY SZN 2022 DOUBLE FEATURE REVIEW: Don’t Worry Darling & Smile

Smile Shines As One Of The Best Horror Movies Of The Year, While Don’t Worry Darling Fails To Be Great

Continuing our dive into all things spooky and spooky-adjacent, it is officially now October, which means welcome any late arrivals to SPOOKY SZN 2022! Having already reviewed both Barbarian and Pearl in September, we are keeping things moving with two more films that fit the criteria needed for the season; Don’t Worry Darling and Smile. For those looking for more family-friendly frights, don’t worry (pun not intended), I am planning to cover both The Munsters and Hocus Pocus 2 in the coming days!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy this Double Feature Review!

Don’t Worry Darling — Directed By Olivia Wilde

Set in Suburban America during with an apparent 1950’s backdrop, Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles) live in an idyllic neighborhood of the company town of Victory. Set on a very cyclical cycle, every morning the men of Victory go to work at the mysterious and apparently dangerous, Victory Headquarters located in the middle of the desert, while their wives Alice, and her friends, Bunny (Olivia Wilde) and Margaret (Kiki Layne), stay home to clean, relax, and prepare dinner for their husbands upon their return. Discouraged from asking questions about the nature of the work within Victory, Margaret has become a social outcast within the town after taking her son out into the desert, resulting in her son’s “death”.

Official Trailer for Don’t Worry Darling (2022), Directed By Olivia Wilde

During a trolley ride to the edge of Victory, Alice witnesses a random, out-of-nowhere, plane crash out in the desert. Shown to seemingly touch down in the mountains, Alice finds herself wandering in the desert where she stumbles onto the mysterious Victory HQ, before blacking out and waking up back home later that night. Beginning to see hallucinations, shares with Alice that she has seen the same things as Alice did, before Margaret ultimately kills herself.

Confronting the leaders of Victory, Frank (Chris Pine), a crazed, idealized spokesperson for the project, and Dr. Collins (Timothy Simons), seemingly the brains behind the town, Alice’s life unfolds before her until it reaches a boiling point where she ruins her own reputation during a dinner party, it is revealed that Victory and the lives within it are not what they seem. Set in a computerized world, Alice was actually a nurse in the real world with her husband, still played by Harry Styles, having forced her into this world through drugging her and keeping her locked to the bed. Eventually breaking out of the mental restraints, Alice kills Jack in the video game, ending his real life too, before making her grand escape.

While the plot may sound exciting, and at times, it is, Don’t Worry Darling fails to land in the truly “great” category that it should have. Coming off an excellent debut film in the form of Booksmart, Olivia Wilde’s second feature film is now likely to be more remembered for the drama that occurred on-set and during the press tour than for the actual content of the movie itself. Ranging from reported heat between Wilde and Florence Pugh to the now infamous moment during the film’s premiere where Harry Styles may have spat on Chris Pine (but probably not), it has been a complete circus. As for the movie itself, Wilde remains a competent director in her sophomore outing, though it feels like a significant step-down from her first time. Carried by extremely strong performances from Florence Pugh and Chris Pine, someone whose character should have been more fleshed out in favor of random unexplained oddities like the crashed plane or the new couple in Victory, Don’t Worry Darling does feature strong performances across the board. Even Harry Styles, who critics have seemed to turn on, delivers a good turn as Jack.

As a whole, it just feels as if it bit off more than it could chew, with big changes occurring from the film’s initial script to the final product on the screen. At times, it feels like it wants to be a conspiracy thriller, at others a straight-up horror film, and then sporadically, an erotic thriller, but none of them stick for a true, genuine identity for Wilde’s film. Don’t Worry Darling is far from a bad film, but it does leave quite a lot to be desired by the time the credits roll, especially from the caliber of talent involved.

GIF of Florence Pugh and Harry Styles’ Sex Scene from Don’t Worry Darling (2022)

Rating — ★★★

Don’t Worry Darling, distributed by Warner Bros Pictures, was released in theaters on September 23, 2022 and is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

Promotional Poster for Smile (2022)

Smile — Directed By Parker Finn

Unlike the previous entry in this article, Smile somehow exceeded all expectations. With a memorable trailer, albeit one that I had seen significantly too many times at the movie theater, and with a strong guerilla marketing campaign in recent weeks, Smile came out of the gates strong and delivered one of the best horror films of the year. For those even slightly on the fence about this one, go see it in theaters, preferably any premium showings in Prime or Dolby if possible, as the sound design in Smile is unmatched when it comes to other horror releases in 2022.

With this being the feature-length debut for director Parker Finn, this could have surely just become a forgettable, schlock release that is put out and forgotten in a matter of weeks. Instead, for horror fans, this will surely delight as one of the most genuinely terrifying and uncomfortable watches of the year. As a sidenote: I am not vocal during movies, but there was a jump scare in this film that made me jump out of my seat and shout f*ck.

Opening on a brutal flashback depicting her mother’s suicide, the film truly opens with Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) treating a patient named Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey), a PhD student who witnessed her college professor commit suicide. The sole witness to his death, Laura now claims to be seeing an entity that pretends to be other people, taunting her, smiling at her. As the trailers depicted, Laura kills herself in front of Rose, using a broken flower vase to cut her throat in a smile-like shape.

Following an incident with another patient in which she orders him to be restrained for violence, with it being revealed that it was a hallucination, Rose, the head of her hospital, Dr. Morgan Desai (Kal Penn), forces her a to take a week-long break from work. Outside of work, her mental health continues to decline, with instances of a home invasion, a dead cat, and an evil therapist taking control of her life to a highly dangerous degree. Resulting in the decline of her marriage to Trevor (Jesse T. Usher), a husband who becomes totally dissociative with their time together, and her own relationship with her sister Holly (Gillian Zinser), Rose becomes convinced her she is now cursed.

Still from Smile (2022), Paramount Pictures

With inspiration from a number of films, ranging from The Ring to Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Insidious, Smile may at times feel less-than-original, but with it being the director’s first outing, and with many great directors including Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese openly admitting to “stealing” ideas from other movies and media, that is hardly a knock on this. With it being a freshman feature film, Parker Finn’s Smile shines when delivering on its horror premise as almost every single attempted scare in the film’s runtime sticks its landing. With some of the best sound design in a horror film this year, seeing this in a theater with peak audio quality is a must, as there are a number of moments that will leave you with chills running down your spine, inducing severe anxiety, and having you jump out of your seat for a great time at the movies.

Led by a great lead performance from Sosie Bacon as Rose Cotter, she commits to the film, delivering each line as if this were her moment to shine. The writing is not anything to write home about either, which makes the star-making performance from Bacon even more memorable as she leads a fairly low-key cast, with Usher and Penn as the two other notable names in the film. Without revealing the actual ending of the film, as it is likely going to be one of the most memorable of the year, Smile does at times feel as if it would be a better film had it been a sophomore or even junior outing from Finn, as there is a bit of bloat that makes its 2-hour runtime feel denser than it actually is. But even with the bloat and not-so-consistent pacing, it nails most of what it aims for; delivering the best scares of the year and somehow matching the sheer insanity of Zach Cregger’s Barbarian, another one of the best movies of the year.

Rating — ★★★★

Smile, distributed by Paramount Pictures, was released in theaters on September 30, 2022 and is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

For those that enjoyed this piece and want a bit more from me… please consider following me for more in the future! On top of covering a ton of Halloween/Horror content so far this Fall, there are going to be lots to talk about with a number of major releases including The Fabelmans, Halloween Ends, Black Adam, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Avatar: The Way Of Water, and so, so much more, so be sure to subscribe for more!

If you want to stay connected to me outside of Medium, you can follow me on Twitter where I talk about Movies, Comics, Wrestling, and Pop Culture as a whole! My Letterboxd is also linked below, for those that want to see what else I am watching when not reviewing movies on here.

Joshi Wrestler Mina Shirakawa in Stardom

If you made it to the end and want to check out another one of my articles, check out my profile and consider following me on Medium, or check out my other SPOOKY SZN 2022 Double Feature, covering Barbarian and Pearl!

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NotVeryProfoundFilm

NotVeryProfoundFilm

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Entertainment Writer, Sometimes a Film Critic, Avid Disney Villain Song Connoisseur || Follow me on Twitter @NVProfoundFilm