Smiley (reviewed by Lisa Marie Bowman)

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Oh God, this movie.

Whenever I watch 2012’s Smiley (and, since this is one of those films that always seems to be playing whenever I have insomnia, I actually have seen Smiley more times than I should probably admit), I always find myself hoping that it will actually be a better film than I remember it being.

Some of that, I have to admit, is because I once dated a frat boy whose nickname was Smiley.  His high school football coach gave him that name because he was always smiling!  (Yes, I once dated a football player who smiled a lot and didn’t really care much about literature, art, movies, history, or anything else that I was actually interested in. Don’t ask me to explain how these things happen.)  His pickup truck even had a personalized licence plate that read, “SMILY.”  That’s right — he wasn’t really sure how to spell Smiley.  Whenever I see the title Smiley listed in the guide, I think of him and I have to kind of laugh.

Beyond that, Smiley was an independent, low-budget film and I have to admit that my natural inclination is always to support independent filmmakers.  If Smiley was a huge studio production, I’d have absolutely no qualms about ripping it apart.  But when I see an indie horror film like Smiley, there’s a part of me that almost feels that I have to be supportive.  But the things is, it’s one thing to be supportive and it’s another thing to be delusional.  I may want Smiley to be a good horror film but it’s not and I’m really not doing anyone any good if I pretend otherwise.

Finally, I always want Smiley to be better than it actually is because the film features one of the creepiest killers that I’ve ever seen.  Even if the character is cheapened by a rather stupid twist, Smiley is scary looking.  Smiley is presented as being the spirit of a man who, after stitching his own eyes closed, carved a permanent smile on his face.  As a force of evil, Smiley is genuinely frightening and it’s unfortunate that the rest of the film doesn’t live up to the character’s potential.

As for the rest of the film … well, it’s pretty much your typical slasher.  All of the characters are loathsome, the murders are neither suspenseful nor gory enough to really be memorable, and this is one of those films that relies far too much on scenes of people running into someone, screaming in terror, and then discovering that it was just one of their friends.  It is true that there is a twist towards the end of the film that’s designed to make you question everything that you’ve just see but since the twist doesn’t make much sense and comes out of nowhere, it’s hard to get excited about it.  The best thing the film had going for it was the character of Smiley and the twist pretty much ruins that.

(The film’s other big twist is that the cast is full of YouTube personalities, which makesSmiley the spiritual descendant of The Scorned, a similarly bad slasher film that was full of reality TV stars.)

By the way, the idea behind Smiley is that you can go on Chatroulette and, if you type “I did it for the lulz” three times, Smiley will appear and kill whoever your chatting with.  Just for the record, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work.*

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