Smiley takes a well known Urban Legend, that of Bloody Mary, and gives it a modern reboot. Well, that’s the plan. The premise is, if you are chatting with a stranger on Skype and type the phrase “I did it for the Lulz” (groan), three times, then the supernatural figure of Smiley will appear behind your victim and murder them. Smiley has the appearance of a skin mask with sewn up eyes and a carved permanent grin, which is supposed to be horrifying, but I couldn’t help being put in mind of the Preacher comic character Arseface.
The main character, Ashley,is your typical good girl with a seemingly limited life experience, who goes off to college and gets dragged into the familiar US college party lifestyle by her wilder roommate. The roommate, Proxy (?!), has connections with an anonymous group of bloggers from campus that share an underground style message board to share their musings and controversial content. Oh and to arrange parties, which makes them NOT anonymous. Idiots.
Whilst at one of these parties Ashley witnesses a reveller invoking Smiley on Skype and getting his chat buddy killed, something everybody is very excited about. Ashley rationalises this as a prank and kind of doesn’t worry much about it. She has a cute,shy stranger to chat up. One that gets chased out of the fun time gathering with chants of ‘Pedobear’. Thats right, this guys nickname is Pedobear, and does Ashley question this? Does she fuck! Seriously Ash, why the fuck would you not want to know the story behind a name like that?!
This is just one of many flaws in this film. There is the use of crap jump scares to address, one of which happens within the first thirty seconds of the film. The jumps come thick and fast, but being completely unnecessary have absolutely no effect.
A major issue for me is the main character herself. I feel that we are meant to be on her side, to fear for her wellbeing and to sympathise with her mental state, but it is impossible to care. Even after a revaltion about a traumatic past, her current lack of good moral judgement and common sense leaves her character both shallow and infuriating. It takes her far too long to involve the police, and although they do turn out to be incompetent dipshits, her decisions make her too unrealistic as a human, let alone one we are supposed to get behind.
Ashley attends an ethics class which is hosted by a Professor that spouts so much pseudo intellectual clap trap the dialogue in these scenes becomes nonsensical. It’s a shame because there is a real feeling that there is a message being pushed here, but it’s dealt with so ham-fistedly I wonder why they bothered, and it does little more than irritate.
Another fault with this film is a real pet peeve of mine, it constantly changes the rules. This is not done in a cool, edgey, keep you on your toes kind of a way, rather than in a ‘Oh shit, this isn’t convenient for plot development, let’s just change it’, kind of a way. There is even a dream within a dream sequence that totally dicks with the story, and has no relevance, it seems the aim of this filmmaker was to crowbar as much clichéd shit in as possible.
Try as it might to bamboozle, the finale is fairly predictable, and this is probably the fatal flaw. This is a film so concerned with keeping you guessing that it forgoes developing believable characters, structured plot, having any kind of tension or horror, and yet it ultimately fails to suprise. What a disappointment.
Cheap ineffectual scares, hardly any gore, no tension. The characters are abhorrent, which isn’t always a criticism, but I truly feel that we were meant to like Ashley. The acting is fairly mediocre too, I’m not sure if it’s down to the material they had to work with though. I’m going to end this review with what I originally wrote as my first draft : Fuck Smiley.