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‘Smile’ Movie Ending Explained

Give us a creepy smile!

rose being terrorized in Smile (Paramount Pictures)

What do you do when smiling is made creepy? We’re used to seeing entities like Pennywise or horror villains that are clowns smile, but something wearing a human face is scary as hell! Smile (2022) certainly doesn’t fail in the scary department.

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Here’s the official synopsis of the film:

“After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she cannot explain. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.”

– Paramount Pictures

Believe me, Rose (Sosie Bacon) goes through it the whole film. She gets stuck dealing with so much shit and doesn’t deserve anything that happens to her. What exactly occurs throughout the film and what’s the ending? Keep reading for a whole lot of spoilers.

What’s the ending of ‘Smile’?

Trigger warning: mentions of suicide, animal death, and mental health below.

Rose’s past trauma involving her mother’s suicide comes to the surface. She spends the movie dealing with the true nature of why her patient killed herself, her cat being murdered and put in a box for her nephew, her fiancé and even her therapist not believing her, and the relentless, malevolent entity turning her life into a horror show. It’s almost too much, even as a viewer, because everything feels hopeless. Every person but one who encountered this entity died violently, and passed the curse along to someone who witnessed that death, as a result.

Considering her childhood home held the most trauma, Rose returns there to take a stand. Without someone there to witness what happens, she won’t be able to pass the curse along, leaving the entity with nowhere to go if it kills her—but there’s no cookie-cutter ending for our protagonist. She experiences a false escape and finds herself back at her old house, with the entity waiting but unable to take hold of her. Unfortunately, her cop ex, Joel (Kyle Gallner), followed her out there out of worry, meaning that there is now a witness, and the entity can possess her and pass the curse along to Joel. Disturbingly, the entity rips off its false face and reveals a disturbing-as-hell true form. After opening Rose’s mouth wide, it crawls inside her.

And just as everyone suspects, poor Joel has to witness Rose killing herself with a creepy smile on her face.

What did the entity want, exactly?

the patient in Smile
(Paramount Pictures)

There are plenty of interpretations for this film. Is it secretly about generational trauma? Just trauma as a whole? Something I took from it in terms of the title was how smiling is turned so sinister. But in the end, what the entity wanted was to feed off of trauma—to take advantage of the pain inside someone’s head. It had no name (normally, in horror like this, we get a research scene), and that added to the mystery. What was clear was how it found glee in torturing people before possession.

The film is currently in theaters, and I do recommend folks who enjoy psychological horror go see it. I even recommend it to horror fans that want something different.

(featured image: Paramount Pictures)

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Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.

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