SMILEY (2012) Review

Directed by: Michael J. Gallagher
Starring: Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson

Judging from its trailer SMILEY seemed like it could have been if not a great movie then at least a decent slasher. Fortunately however I've seen enough trailers to know that they can be extremely misleading which in this case is sadly true. I also thought that the inclusion of some prominent Youtubers might have made this a little interesting but once again I was fooled.

The concept of SMILEY is quite simple. It takes the basic 'Bloody Mary' or 'Candyman' urban legend and tries to update it for a more modern, Internet savvy audience. Instead of standing in front of a mirror and saying something three times SMILEY is supposedly invoked by typing 'I did it for the lulz' three times during an online chat with a stranger. Then all of a sudden somebody with a face resembling a fleshy emoticon appears behind the victim and dispatches them with a knife.

Ashley (Gerard) is all grown up and heading off to college. She has arranged to stay with Proxy (Papalia) who on their first night persuades Ashley to come along to a party with her. The party is a gathering of an online collective called (wait for it) Anonymous. They know next to nothing about each other and refer to themselves with their online handles. During the party Ashley is introduced to an urban legend, the story of SMILEY. Afterwards she is shown a video of somebody being killed by this so-called viral serial killer and she freaks out. Proxy decides to put Ashley's mind at ease by proving to her that SMILEY is just a myth, but of course things go horribly wrong and soon it seems that SMILEY is real and he's after Ashley and her friends.

The Internet references in this film are so blatant and frequent that they put me off quite a bit and made me reach the decision that the filmmakers were desperate to make the movie seem attractive and relatable to an online audience. References and phrases like Anonymous, hacktivists, 4Chan, Chat Roulette and of course the phrase somebody thought would be clever as a tagline "I did it for the lulz" seem to be coming from all sides. Apparently basing the film around an online killer wasn't enough, the filmmakers felt the need to mention real actual stuff from the Internet and keep reminding the audience every 15 minutes.
And speaking of things being blatantly obvious; on Ashley's first ever day at college, her first ever class just so happens to be one which involves parallels and symbolism relative to the SMILEY myth. What a fucking coincidence. I'm sure those elements could have been slipped into the film a little more subtly.
Adding to the film's list of flaws are the unneeded subplot involving Ashley's father and herself trying to cope with the loss of her mother (what this had to do with the rest of the movie I have no idea), and a straight up stupid ending which just seemed tacked on and not thought through at all.

So on to the positive stuff (sorry there's not much). The practical effects look really good and apart from one horrible looking scene there is basically no CGI. The acting isn't too bad (admittedly this kind of movie doesn't really require great acting) and there are a few fast paced and tense moments. The use of lighting was effective as was the use of sound.

The negatives far outweigh the positives in SMILEY and I really wouldn't recommend watching this unless you really have nothing better to do. Skip the movie, save your money and go spend it one something worthwhile.

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