‘Smile’ Is a Case Study in Creepy Marketing Stunts


Smile‘s wicked grins paid off. Paramount Pictures’ upstart horror film has outdone itself at the box office in just a few days.

Mere days after its September 30 premiere, Smile had already racked up $22 million and $37 million in ticket sales at the North American and worldwide box offices, respectively.

Smile, which was made on a $17m budget, undoubtedly made its money back and is still going.  The creepy grin-focused movie — think: 2012’s Smiley meets 2018’s Truth or Dare — emerged as the number one film in America, toppling Billy Eichner’s Bros and the drama-within-a-drama Don’t Worry, Darling.

In short, Smile beamed throughout the weekend.

I’m not shocked to see that Smile earned a significant box office victory during its opening weekend. In addition to an intriguing plot, the movie also utilized a buzzy promotional run.

In preparation of Smile‘s release, Paramount hired “smilers” to show up at random public places, like the Today Show and a Yankees v. Red Sox game, and deliver their most haunting smirk.

The creepy marketing stint quickly reached virality on the internet as clueless onlookers captured and posted the startling promo happening before their eyes.

For those unfamiliar with Smile, here’s a quick little rundown. Directed by Parker Finn, the psychological horror film follows the story of a therapist, Dr. Rose Cotter, who witnesses a patient’s suicide and subsequently endures some weird occurrences.

How weird? Well, arguably the most terrifying thing I can imagine: people creepily smiling at her wherever she goes. In the trailer, there’s even a frightening moment where a woman literally turns her smile upside down (peep the video to see what I mean).

The scary movie enthusiast in me is undoubtedly excited about Smile, but I definitely have my doubts about being let down.

This new era of horror — which champions IRL monsters over demons and haunting spirits — has been hit-or-miss for me. Jordan Peele’s Us and Get Out get frequent replays on my television screen, while Hereditary was a one-and-done watch (it was just plain disturbing to me).

Perhaps, I just miss the good jump-scare and peaking-out-from-under-my-blanket feels I received when I watched The Conjuring and Insidious. Speaking of, does anyone else randomly hear Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” or is it just me?

Nonetheless, Smile undoubtedly has me both scared and curious with the trailer alone. As a horror fan, I’ll give Smile a watch in hopes of scratching my spooky season itch. I mean, an 80% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t lie, right?



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