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The Ending Of Smile Explained

Contains spoilers for "Smile"

The following article includes plot-related discussions of suicide, drug abuse, and mental illness

This year has been jam-packed withbreakout original horror movies like "Barbarian," "Nope," "Fresh," and "X" that have revitalized the genre in new and exciting ways. Parker Finn's feature-directorial debut, "Smile," continued horror's dominance in 2022 by providing some shocking scares and surprises that made for an instant crowd-pleaser. The film follows psychiatrist, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), as she finds herself in a fight for survival against a smiling entity that continually distorts her reality and terrorizes her after she's traumatized by the violent death of her new patient, Laura (Caitlin Stasey).

"Smile" delivered tons of gruesome brutality and mind-bending scares that took viewers as well as Rose to the brink of their sanity. While hitting on some interesting mental health story beats and character threads, "Smile" showcased some strong direction from Finn as his incredibly effective jump scares and reveals never left viewers feeling comfortable. Also, who could forget the wild and jaw-dropping finale that rocked viewers to their core with how shocking and messed up it was? But so much was going on that viewers might have some burning questions in regard to what was happening. That's where we come in as we'll delve deep into everything that was happening throughout "Smile," especially the ending, and maybe answer some of your lingering questions.

What is the smiling entity?

From the second it enters the first sequence with Rose and Laura, the smiling entity instantly gets under your skin with how sinister and creepy its smile is. Not to mention, the way it causes people to off themselves in a gruesome fashion before it transfers to a nearby witness makes it even more monstrous to come across. While the answer of "what is it" never gets fully answered as the film doesn't have some historic or mythical backstory to give out, there is kind of an answer as to what it is.

Based on what we see of it, the smiling entity seems to be some kind of supernatural being that lives in the mind of those that it traumatizes through gruesome acts of violence. As it stays in the mind of its victims, it twists and distorts their reality to the point where it can overtake their body making them die in a terrifying fashion before passing onto a nearby witness. Even with no specific origins established or even a name given to this horrifying entity, it's grisly smile and gut-wrenching, blood-soaked acts of violence make it have an unforgettable presence.

How long has this been going on for?

As we eventually learn, Rose is just one of many victims of this smiling entity as she not only sees pictures of past victims but also meets one who was able to escape, kind of. But the real question is, how long has the smiling entity been around and been progressing this cycle. While there are no origins or timeline disclosed for the smiling entity, it's not too hard to figure out that this entity has been creating trauma for quite some time.

With its cycle of terror generally not lasting for more than a week, this smiling entity can build up a high body count quick, so its number of victims could be immensely high. From what Joel (Kyle Gallner) says about the other cases he found, there are at least 20 other victims, but based on what Robert (Rob Morgan), the only survivor, says, it could be even higher. Robert does mention that he read a story about these occurrences happening in another country, so the history of this smiling entity could go back pretty far. There's no exact timeframe as to when this smiling entity came to be, but it's already left quite a long blood trail in its path of destruction and terror.

Does anyone believe Rose?

Throughout "Smile," Rose struggles to get anyone to believe that she's actually being haunted by this creepy entity. With how the being constantly bends Rose's reality and drives her to the edge of her sanity, Rose is constantly saying and doing things that make her appear mentally ill to other people and cause them to turn their back on her. So does anybody believe Rose? Well, there are definitely some characters who don't.

Her awful fiancé, Trevor (Jessie T. Usher), her snarky sister, Holly (Gillian Zinser), and her old therapist, Madeline (Robin Weigert) are under the same impression that Rose is simply having a mental breakdown due to residual feelings of her mom's (Dora Kiss) death and her harsh upbringing. Her supervisor, Dr. Morgan Desai (Kal Penn), has her equally pegged as troubled, thinking that she's just traumatized from her patient's gruesome death happening right in front of her. Outside of Robert, who just screams at Rose to leave once she reveals that she's being haunted by the entity, Joel is the only one who thinks she's telling the truth. Even then, though, he has his doubts. Based on the way film ends though, Joel's going to start believing.

What's that house Rose goes into?

Early on, we learn that Rose is still haunted by visions of her mom dying of a drug overdose in her bed when Rose was young. It's a symbol of her underlying trauma that still haunts her and gets pitted against her when she tries to talk to others about what's happening to her with this smiling entity. However, when Rose finds herself stuck with very few options to get out, she decides to just isolate herself so that the entity can't pass onto another person and goes to a particular place to do so.

The abandoned house where Rose goes to face the entity is actually her childhood home that's become decrepit over time. As she explores the house, it's easy to see the child's height chart on the wall that symbolizes more innocent times, and Rose eventually goes into the bedroom where she once saw her mother die. There, she gets to air out her trauma to the smiling entity posing as her mother, but we soon learn that Rose going back to her childhood home unearths an even more disturbing truth about her mother's death.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

What actually happened to Rose's mother?

Although the death of Rose's mom seems pretty straightforward; the flashbacks show her dying in bed from a drug overdose as a young Rose finds her. This traumatic event acts as the start of her growing trauma, which the smiling entity feeds on. But there's actually a darker truth to it, we learn from an extension of the flashback that shows why this moment really continues to haunt Rose.

With an extended look at the flashback, we see that Rose actually had the opportunity to save her mother as she was still alive and asking for help, but Rose did nothing and ran away eventually leading her mother to die. Rose claims that she ran because of how frustrated and traumatized she became from the cycle of abuse Rose's mom put her in and that she thought it was time for the pain to come to an end. It's a disturbing and dark reveal that makes the final confrontation between her and the entity posing as her mother carry a much heavier and more emotional tone that gives Rose's lingering trauma more meaning.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

What does the smiling entity actually look like?

Throughout the film, we see that the smiling entity takes the forms of many different people, both living and dead, to try and toy with Rose's mind. From her therapist to even her former patient, this entity has no limitations with how it can break Rose's mind. However, Rose seems to run into its true form in the film's finale after it takes the form of Rose's deceased mother.

If what we end up seeing is the being's true form then it appears to be a lanky, gigantic humanoid creature, kind of like the entity in "Barbarian," that towers over its victims with a grisly smile before possessing them. If that's not enough, it eventually rips off its own skin to show itself as a grotesque body horror monster that can rip open its jaw and leave you stunned with how horrifying it looks. Without much more on the entity, it's tough to say if what we're seeing is truly its final form, but what we do see is absolutely terrifying.

How does the smiling entity possess people?

In a similar vein to Pennywise's hunger for fear in "It," the smiling entity feeds on people's trauma to not only break them down but also possess them before transferring to a nearby witness. Once the smiling entity takes control of its victim, it forces them to take their own life in a bloody and scarring fashion in front of someone else. Once the deed is done and the witness is shocked and horrified, it starts to haunt them and the cycle starts again.

It's a unique kind of cycle of trauma that no one wants to get caught up in — and when it comes to how the smiling entity possesses its victim, the film answers that question too, whether we wanted to know the answer or not. Once the being strips its skin to show a body horror concoction like no other, it apparently rips the jaw of its victim open to then go directly into its victim's body. It's an absolutely mind-melting sequence that leaves your own jaw wide open in shock, and it's easily one of "Smile's" most disturbing sequences.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Can the smiling entity actually be beaten?

With the smiling entity constantly distorting Rose's sense of reality and there rarely being a moment for Rose to fight back, you're constantly left wondering if there's any way to escape this thing. Well, Rose eventually does find that there is a way out after talking to Robert, but it comes at a terrible price. According to Robert, the only way to stop the curse is by killing someone in front of someone else so that the curse will pass on to the witness.

It makes sense given the smiling entity's love for passing on trauma, but it's not much of an escape since, like Robert, you'll only find yourself in a life behind bars. Other than Robert's method, it doesn't seem like there's another way to escape or beat the smiling entity at their own game. The entire finale sees Rose try just about everything in her power to defeat the smiling entity, even lighting it on fire, but she just finds that the being just has her in a trap that sees it get the upper hand. Unless something else comes up in a future sequel, it seems like the smiling entity's game is unbeatable.

Was Rose really able to escape?

After lighting the smiling entity on fire along with the rest of the house, it seems like Rose is finally able to escape the curse and kill the being. She gets as far as Joel's apartment and even asks to stay the night so someone could keep her safe, but she soon finds that not everything is as it seems. Once Joel starts acting a little weird and bears that horrifying smile, Rose realizes that she hasn't truly escaped the smiling entity yet and that things only get worse for her.

As she attempts to run away through one of the doors, Rose finds herself running out of her childhood house, meaning that she's been sucked into one of the smiling entity's fake realities again. It's an incredible false ending that totally punches you in the gut and is made even worse by Joel pulling up. It becomes clear that the smiling entity's plan is going to come together setting up a gut-wrenchingly dark and gruesome ending that cuts incredibly deep.

Does Rose survive?

With Joel arriving at the worst time possible and Rose discovering that her defeat of the smiling entity was just a horrifying fantasy, it's pretty clear that Rose is on borrowed time and that the smiling entity's plan is coming together to possess her and continue the cycle. Not too long after running back into the house, Rose becomes possessed by the smiling entity through a skin-crawling horror sequence, and as Joel breaks into the house to try and save her, the cycle continues again.

After some well-built suspense, Joel finds Rose standing in another room drenched in gasoline and having that disgusting smile plastered all over her face. Even though you know what's coming, it's still a chilling sequence and with a single match, Rose lights herself ablaze, ending Rose's time in this movie and leaving things on a depressing and dark note. Even worse, Rose's death isn't the end of the smiling entity's cycle of terror, and Joel's heroism comes with some terrifying consequences.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

What is Joel's fate?

Although Joel's care for Rose and his slight belief in her story about the smiling entity make him an admirable character, he makes quite a foolish choice in the final moments of the film. His desire to be heroic and bust into the house to save Rose leads him to make a bad choice with horrifying consequences. It's a great bit of dramatic irony, since Joel just thinks he's trying to save Rose, but we know that he's just making the smiling entity's plans come true by becoming a witness to Rose's death.

That's exactly what ends up happening as Joel breaks in only to watch Rose go up in flames by her own hand and by the smiling entity's control. Having become part of the cycle, it's likely that Joel will now become the smiling entity's next target. Given that Joel knows about how the cycle works, it's tough to understand why he didn't see this coming, but it could end up making for a future story.

Will there be a sequel?

At the time of this writing, there's no sequel announced or in the works for "Smile," but there's certainly a lot of potential for there to be one. The idea of the next film following Joel now dealing with the smiling entity could easily happen — like how "Sinister 2" follows the police officer (James Ransone) from the first "Sinister" — and possibly help expand the story more to further understand the smiling entity. With the lack of origins and backstory for the monster, a sequel could easily delve into what this entity is and possibly even how to beat it.

Perhaps a sequel could even go the route of "The Grudge 2" or the myriad "Scream" movies, offing Joel in the opening of the film to follow a new character and continue the story that way. Perhaps we could even get a prequel following Robert's time with the smiling entity and looking at his investigation into its origins. The original film suggests a world full of potential victims and story possibilities, so there's no reason to believe that a sequel could happen, maybe even more.

Will Smile become a new horror franchise?

Again, no sequel has been announced yet for "Smile," but why not dream big? Paramount is certainly trying to make a big mark for itself with the growing library of Paramount+ and "Top Gun: Maverick's" domination at the box office. So why not have an original horror franchise of their own with "Smile," right?

The studio is already advertising it with nerve-racking trailers and a viral marketing campaign that finds the studio putting "smilers" at sports games, showing Paramount's investment in the title (per The Wrap). And "Smile" doesn't have to do much to warrant a follow-up, either, as its budget is reportedly a low $17 million, meaning it only needs about $34 million to break even (other 2022 horror movies, like "The Black Phone" and "Nope," passed that number in under two weeks).

"Smile" certainly boasts all the potential to be a big crowd-pleaser with its great scares and wildly fun horror premise and has also gotten praise from critics. Plus, it already features a lot of elements of other landmark horror franchises like "The Grudge" and "Sinister," so it could easily become something bigger, especially with its expansive story possibilities. If "Smile" can conjure up some good box office numbers and gain the kind of following it heavily deserves, then there's no reason to believe that "Smile" couldn't become a horror franchise.