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STUDIO Arc Entertainment
RUNNING TIME 95 Minutes
• Gory Outtakes
• Gag reel
• Audio Commentary with Shane Dawson, Roger Bart, and Michael Gallagher
–Kids like that Internet thing, right? Let’s make a horror movie about that!–
–Michael Gallagher (Director), Caitlin Gerard, Shane Dawson, Roger Bart, Melanie Papalia, Keith David, –
–After discovering an urban legend of a demented serial killer, who has nothing but a carved ‘smiley’ on his face, a mentally fragile teen must decide whether she is going insane – or will be the next victim.
–Over the past few years the media has acknowledged the growth of the hacker group known as Anonymous. Seen as folk heroes by some, cyber terrorists by others, and sophomoric jerks by most; it was really only a matter of time before the movie industry tackled this growing “threat.” Enter Smiley.
Smiley is a play on Slender Man with a little bit of Bloody Mary thrown in. Basically you log onto “Hide and Go Chat” (a fake movie version of Chat Roulette) and type in the phrase “I did it for the lulz” three times and Smiley appears behind the person you’re chatting with and stabs them to death. I feel it’s worth mentioning that this movie is not a comedy and it not only takes this seriously, but it thinks it’s very scary.
Of course the ridiculousness of the concept pales in comparison to the cast of characters we’re forced to endure it with. Our heroine, Ashley, is the most wholesome protagonist in any slasher movie ever. I’m sure they were trying to play up the “innocent country girl goes to college and becomes corrupted” angle but she’s the most childishly innocent and naïve character this side of after school specials and Christian propaganda movies.
Ashley isn’t even the only character that’s cranked up to eleven; her friend Proxy is the annoying party-girl best friend by which all other annoying party-girl best friends are judged and Ashley’s love interest, Binder, is definition of the greasy outcast who’s just too nice for anyone to like him. The rest of the cast is populated by Proxy’s friends from /b/ (an internet forum “similar” to 4chan) who are a group of quite possibly the biggest tools ever. I can’t think of any slasher movie characters more immediately hateable than these people, which is really saying something. I guess that’s sort of a backhanded compliment to the actors playing them, but they’re all pretty unimportant and interchangeable so they’re not worth mentioning beyond that.
Ashley sees several videos of Smiley killing people and, apparently never having seen Candyman, she and Proxy decide to try out this urban legend for themselves with predictable results. Now she’s afraid that Smiley is coming to kill her but is Smiley real or is somebody real trying to kill her dressed as Smiley? This is a difficult question but fortunately for Ashley her “Intro to Reason and Ethics” class doubles as an “Intro to Plot Dissection and Exposition” class. I won’t ruin the ending, but if you half pay attention to any of the lectures you can pretty much puzzle it out for yourself.
I may mock the expository classroom segments but these are the only scenes in the movie that work. Not only are they the only scenes with any merit, they’re also the only ones that manage to be creepy though that’s mostly due to actor Roger Bart who has just the right balance of menace and sarcasm to make the character interesting. That said, Bart is really just playing the exact same red herring character that Robert Englund played in Urban Legend.
The story of Smiley itself is a lot like the plot of Cry_Wolf: a boring slasher movie from 2005 featuring John Bon Jovi. Cry_Wolf was not a good movie and taking its basic structure and peppering in bits of Urban Legend and Candyman, with a rough ripoff of Slender Man and some tired Internet memes was not an advisable strategy to making a good movie.
And while unoriginal ideas and the general blandness of everything happening (and everyone it’s happening to) are damning enough on their own, where Smiley really stumbles is at its attempts to make social commentaries that it’s not even remotely smart enough to pull off. There’s some very obvious jabs at Anonymous, 4-Chan, Chat Roulette, and online and troll culture in general to the point that I’m reasonably certain the first draft of the screenplay was an Andy Rooney rant. Between Ashley’s doe-eyed innocence, her peers’ cartoonish horribleness, and the not-subtle message that the villain is basically the Internet, Smiley comes across as a more violent and nihilistic remake of The ButterCream Gang.
Smiley is dull, derivative, stupid, preachy, and its grasp of internet culture seems to have been gleaned from a Wikipedia article on online bullying. This movie doesn’t even have entertainment value as a bad movie and even the design of the killer is boring and generic, it’s insulting at best and cringe-worthy at worst, skip it at all costs.
–The disc is light on special features: there’s a gag reel, a “gory outtakes” reel (actually just production footage of all the kills and effects in the movie but since they’re all stabbings and throat slittings there’s not much to see here), a trailer, and an audio commentary with Director Michael Gallagher and actors Roger Bart and Shane Dawson. There are no subtitles on this disc.–
Out of a Possible 5 Stars