Director: Michael J Gallagher
Year of release: 2012
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 91-95 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: Evil wears a smile.
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Smiley tells the story of an urban legend floating around the world of web cam based internet chat rooms. So the legend has it anyone that types in "I did it for the lulz" three times while chatting to someone will summon forth the figure of Smiley who then proceeds to brutally murder the person on the other end of the chat. Trying to make sense of this situation is student Ashley who has just started college and is introduced to the legend after being taken to a party by her new room mate Proxy. Troubled by the apparent murders she sees on screen Ashley is later persuaded by Proxy to try out the "I did it for the lulz" line herself in a chatroom so that they can prove to themselves there is nothing to it. To their surprise however the person on the other end of the chat that they choose for their test actually does get killed after the sudden appearance of Smiley. Though Proxy wants to pretend the incident never happened Ashley can't get it out of her mind and soon becomes increasingly jumpy, seeing Smiley all over the place as her new friends begin to fall victim to the legend themselves. It soon becomes apparent that not satisfied with killing just the one person involved in the chat Smiley is also intent on killing those that summon him with Ashley now at the top of his hit list.
Good points: Throughout the course of the film a good job is done of keeping us guessing as to who is behind the murders with several candidates or theories being presented. There is the intellectual and perhaps supernatural theory that Clayton hints at in his lectures as well as several human possibilities like Zain, Binder, Professor Clayton himself, Proxy or even Ashley's father all in the mix as people we can't be too sure about.
I liked the Ashley character for the most part and found her to be someone I could root for. She was a bit dopey at times but more in an endearing way than anything else. Professor Clayton was also a very watchable character if a little too high brow at times. Proxy was also quite a spunky character who was fun to watch.
The concept and look of the Smiley killer was really well done and I felt he came across as scary looking and intimidating. It was a bit strange how sometimes he would look like a person in a cool mask and at others more of a monster type figure with a head that resembled a potato with a face carved in to it. A killer that looks like a potato sounds ridiculous but it was actually very effective. Potatoes have never looked so sinister! This look was mainly reserved for when Ashley was dreaming or possibly letting her imagination get the better of her so you could say he never in reality looked like that and it was just her warped perception. I also enjoyed the idea of the urban legend used to summon Smiley even if it is borrowed from Candyman and Madman. I think it would have worked better though if he was summoned by using three smiley emoticons in a row instead of the "lulz" line which I felt was a bit lame and embarrassing.
Bad Points: With the exception of a couple of bits towards the end there isn't much gore on display at all. Most of the kills are pretty boring or you don't see much of what happens. I guess they were limited in what they could do though with several of the kills happening suddenly over webcam so they lost out on the opportunity to do much in the way of long drawn out chase scenes etc. So as such the film was lacking in tension and suspense sometimes.
Although he was an interesting character Professor Clayton got too intellectual for me at several points with his classes which isn't really what you want in a slasher film. Much of it went over my head and I could only grasp the rudimentary part of what he was trying to put across. When his jabbering was in full flow I was kind of willing the scene to be over.
I didn't much care for the ending and for me I would have preferred it if they had of gone down the more supernatural route with Smiley being some sort of evil entity. I don't want to give too much away and I can see the ending being quite polarizing so maybe a lot of people would like it and think it improves the film but for me I was left disappointed. No doubt they got the idea of what they ended up doing from another fairly high profile slasher type film.
It was a bit implausible early on that no one but Ashley took the Smiley murders seriously. If the whole deal was that you were talking to a random stranger that you had no connection to at all then how in the minds of the characters could it not be real and instead some kind of hoax? Perhaps the ending goes someway to explaining this but it would still be a benefit for the characters to make more of a fuss.
Verdict: There are definitely some flaws in the film, none more apparent in my eyes than the ending which left me feeling dissatisfied. Despite the issues though I had a pretty good time with the film and enjoyed things like Caitlin Gerard's performance as the final girl, the look of the Smiley character and the idea of kills occurring over the internet mixed in with an urban legend which helps set the film apart from the competition. Smiley seems to have garnered a lot of hate online but I'd say it is nowhere near as bad as many would say and it deserves a look for horror and slasher fans.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Proxy: Stabbed in the eye by the real Smiley.
(I didn't count Ashley's death from throwing herself out the window as she appeared to revive herself and recover at the end of the credits where we see her opening her eyes.)