The 2022 horror movie Smile may seem like yet another remake of the iconic The Ring movies, but it’s actually a new story that offers a fresh take on a similar premise. The Ring franchise has left a mark in the horror genre since the original 1998 Japanese movie Ringu (which is based on a 1991 novel of the same name) came out. It popularized the tropes of transferable curses, video-based scares, and long-haired ghosts. Now, it’s natural to think of any installment of The Ring franchise when a horror movie uses a similar premise.
Smile follows a psychiatrist who’s persecuted by a supernatural entity after witnessing one of her patients took her own life after being tormented by it. Then, she has a week to figure out a way to escape the curse before she suffers the same fate. This premise is very similar to that of the Ring, where every person who watches a certain videotape has seven days to copy it and pass it along, otherwise, Sadako Yamamura / Samara Morgan arrives to kill them. The basics are same, but there are some differences that make Smile a wholly original movie.
The Ring’s curse attracts its victims with their own fascination for the videotape and the mystery surrounding it. Once they’re roped in, there’s little they can do to escape besides passing the curse onto another person. Smile provides a more personal conflict, with protagonist Dr. Rose Cotter receiving the curse through her regular job. She must deal with the evil entity constantly and more directly, as the titular smile infects everyone she meets, everywhere she goes. Therefore, not only is the threat imminent but also ever-present, watching her from every corner and pushing her to find a solution that isn’t as clear as the one in The Ring.
The other big difference between Smile and all the Ring movies is the entity behind the curse. In The Ring, Sadako and Samara are patiently waiting for every person who watches the infamous cursed videotape, and when their time is up, they literally scare the viewer to death if they fail to get rid of the tape. Smile doesn’t feature a defined horror movie monster. Instead, it turns many characters into a twisted version of themselves that torment the victim until her time comes. This makes for a very different threat; while The Ring‘s iconic scene where Samara comes out of the TV will remain unmatched, Smile has its own kind of scares that do justice to its title.
With twelve movies (eight installments in the original Japanese franchise, three in the American version, and one Korean remake), two TV shows, six manga adaptations, and various video games, it would have been fairly easy to turn Smile into a tangential installment of The Ring franchise. However, Smile sets out to tell a familiar story with established tropes, but with an original twist and potential for unique horror-filled moments. Done right, it could even have its own version of the infamous TV scene.
More: The Ring: Why The 2002 Movie’s Ending Is More Bleak Than You Remember