Director:Michael J. Gallagher
Stars:Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia and Shane Dawson
Theres an urban legend going around the college campus, wherein if your in a web-chat and type 'I did it for the lulz' three times, the person your chatting with will meet a grisly end at the hands of a masked figure known only as 'Smiley', who will appear behind them and fuck up their day. Two college gals, one a party gal and the other a good gal, decide to try it out, and come to wish they hadn't...
Theres been a good deal of excitement within the horror community regarding SMILEY; and its all been based on one sole component of the movie...the killers appearance. Masked slashers are ten a penny, good masked slashers are a far rarer breed, and the resident psycho in this here indie flick really does look the part. Which is good, because apart from one or two bright spots, his image is the only worthy thing this vastly disappointing film has going for it. Shame the suckers only on screen for somewhere around thirty seconds throughout the entire movie.
And SMILEY had so much potential too. It has a very clever concept at its centre, regarding an urban legend that's part A.I, part CANDYMAN. It has the techno-horror elements set in place, and its riding the zeitgeist of our Internet obsessed society, where every sort of darkness and depravity is a mouse-click away. It really should be a great time.
So what went so wrong?
It's not the performances. The lead is reasonably able, if sometimes overwrought, and seems committed to her character. Shes also really rather beautiful in a 'girl next door' sorta way. The kind of gal you take home to mother. She may sway wildly from one emotional extreme to the next, but we can put that down to her lack of experience. I liked her quite a bit. The support is all perfectly fine too, the college kids all perform okay, and the seasoned actors that are sprinkled throughout the film are actually rather great, (not least a turn by HOSTEL 2 star, Roger Bart).
Its not the concept. As I said, the concept is solid. The concept is sound. The concept is an amalgamation of many J-Horror and western horror tropes, yes, but its a very interesting one, rife with potential for some very eerie, very thought provoking horror. What if the Internet developed consciousness, and decided we were good for nothing but some killing? Its good, right? It could go places...
And that's the problem. SMILEY goes absolutely nowhere. I was gonna say 'nowhere fast', but in this instance that would be a gross misuse of terminology. It goes nowhere....so....very....slow.
After a fun and enjoyably old-school opening in which the legend of 'Smiley' is laid out for us, and our pre-credit babe gets whats coming to her, the film grinds to a total halt. That's it...it just stops trying. What we get in place of new ideas and/or anything resembling suspense or horror, is a half-cooked mystery in which the cast constantly ask questions and never, ever seem to get any answers. The killer may look great, but he holds no dread in the very few scenes he features in. Instead, hes used to garner simple jump-scares that are more annoying than nerve-shredding. For perhaps ten of the seconds in which he's onscreen, he's killing people in very bloodless, gore-free fashion, no bold-up, no stalking, no dread...just 'Boo! And your dead!', but that ain't the worst of it. For the remaining twenty seconds we get to see him, he's in dream sequences. Yep, you heard me right....dream-fucking-sequences. Not cool, man. Not cool at all.
The cast of characters are almost uniformly unlikable, entitled rich-kid brats who you'd rather strangle than drink with, and if the film had any scenes of suspense, it would've fallen flat due to the sheer lack of goodwill or interest you have in anyone outside the lead. Why are these kids always written as assholes? I don't get it. Not everyone under the age of thirty is a raging douchebag. Most are, I'll give you that, but not all.
The lead may be very endearing, but as written, she has nothing whatsoever to do other than ask questions, scream and blubber a lot in between being chased through her dreams by our pal, Smiley. There are some great sections of dialogue given to Bart, but they go nowhere in the grand scheme of things, and add nothing to the outcome of the story. In fact, the third act is properly anti-climactic, and the finale is over before it begins. Zero action, zero scares. SMILEY doesn't merit being called a 'slasher'. Its just too tame to fit comfortably into anyone's interpretation of that sub-genre.
I haven't any bad will against this movie or its cast and crew. The director is little more than a kid himself, (he was twenty three when he made this), and the cast is made up of mostly fresh faces. They try, it just feels like if the writers and director had put some more thought into this thing, and perhaps studied up on some J-horror and some John Carpenter, we may have had a well rounded little scare-fest on our hands instead of this damp squib. I wish them all the best and I commend them for trying, but this feels very lazy, (outside the mentioned performances).
SMILEY really lacks a pulse, and its a chore to get through it at times. Kids may find something to like here in the urban legend and the blunt jump-scares, but anyone with a working knowledge of cinema will be bored to tears. Sadly, its a huge disappointment.
3 Internet Trolls out of 10