Yes, director Parker Finn uses some jump scares in “Smile.”

But he never overdoes them in this smart, effective, well-directed horror tale about how mental illness and grief can haunt us. Along with … other things.

This film has given horror fans something to, well, smile about, and it showed at the box office the weekend it opened, when it was No. 1 in the United States. It grossed $18.4 million from Oct. 7-9, according to the BoxOfficeReport website.

Part of that might be because of the brilliant marketing campaign in which Paramount placed paid actors, all with the movie’s trademark creepy grin, in high-profile settings – even at Major League Baseball games.

“Smile” (from

The move is based on Finn’s short film called “Laura Hasn’t Slept.” Caitlin Stasey (“Reign”), its star, also appears at the beginning of “Smile.” She tells a doctor she has nightmares after she saw someone commit suicide.

The psychiatrist, Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon, the daughter of Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon) tries to help her, but a grisly scene ensues despite Rose’s best intentions.

Now Rose, trying to deal with the guilt and the trauma, begins to see people grinning at her. Could this be a haunting of some sort? Her fiancé (Jessie T. Usher) is skeptical, and her own therapist doesn’t really listen to her.

After all, Rose has some issues from her past. Could it be that it’s really her past that is haunting her?

Sosie Bacon turns in a wonderful performance in a movie that put me in the mind of the too-little-seen “It Follows” (there’s another recommendation if you want a double feature.)

Not for the kids and not for the nervous “Smile” is a solid film that’s perfect for the Halloween season.

3 stars

Rated: R for foul language, gore and themes about death and suicide.

Running time: One hour and 55 minutes.

At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; and Palms 10, Muscatine.

Watch the trailer here.