by Mike Holtz, WeWatchedAMovie
What’s the first word that came to mind when I realized there is a movie about a killer with a smiley face carved into its giant head? Awesome. Then inevitably the next thought “How could they actually pull that off?” I mean, it’s a giant smiley face that kills people. Campy fun maybe. Legitimate horror film? No way. Actually…
Ashley (Caitlin Gerard) is a girl with some past mental issues and a close relationship to dad being dropped off at college to move in with her new roommate Proxy (Melanie Papalia) she met online. The girls are polar opposites as Ashley is the typical scream queen lead who wasn’t popular in high school and is quite shy and strange. While Proxy of-course plays the fun loving bad influence who likes to party, smoke pot, and sleep around. She also hangs around with a bad “online” crowd who are friends in the real world as well. These friends like to spend their time partying and possibly getting people murdered online. Yup. There’s a website where you can log in chat with random people face to face and all you have to do is click the “next” button to discard of whoever you are speaking with and have a fresh new face pop up. There’s an urban legend that if you type in the words “I did it for the lulz”, three times “Smiley” the aforementioned serial killer pops up behind them and murders them. I told you it was farfetched.
But…. There are ideas in this film mostly brought up by Ashley’s angry yet charming College Professor (Robert Bart) that may not give a logical explanation to Smiley’s existence but it is smartly written and adds a level of creepiness the film needed. Up until that point Smiley is not only completely un-believable, bordering on campy, but it just wasn’t all that scary. Unless you count pop up scares or gotcha gags. The film has these in bundles as Director Michael Gallagher’s up close, frame filling style of cinematography is a playground for jumpy moments, but it’s the ideas of Professor Clayton that give the film a leg to stand on, whether his theories on evil end up sustaining themselves by the end or not.
The whole movie has a fun feel to its mayhem, the same way Scream did, as a group of teenagers are picked off one by one. But don’t get me wrong, while Smiley isn’t on the same level as Scream, it plays far more interesting than the countless I Know What you did last Summer rip-offs before it and has way more fresh ideas as well. Smiley also has a slight Goosebumps feel to it as not only is the main character so childish and innocent, but the death scenes are surprisingly void of gore and guts, even if Smiley has the ugliest face I’ve ever seen. It’s no children’s movie. I’m just saying it’s not the gore fest you may have expected.
Smiley has one of those endings that are meant to feel like a rollercoaster, jerking you in different directions at a fast pace but it doesn’t fall on its face by any means. It actually ends with an interesting and well thought out twist. The whole movie feels this way. Jumping from one direction to the next and while it may not master any one thing it does…. It’s not bad at anything either. Just remember to watch it past the first twenty minutes because it honestly has more to offer than it lets on. Being full of not only horror movie cliché’s but original ideas as well; and going from slasher film to philosophical thought, is a change of pace I welcomed. It may not scare you to your core but it will make you jump out of your seat. It may not blow your mind but it will keep you interested and it’s worth a watch, especially for horror fans.
Final Grade: 7/10.