Film Review: Smiley (2012)

SYNOPSIS:

After learning of an urban legend in which a demented serial killer named SMILEY can be summoned through the Internet, mentally fragile Ashley must decide whether she is losing her mind or becoming Smiley’s next victim.

REVIEW:

I did it for the lulz
I did it for the lulz
I did it for the lulz

If that phrase sounds a little foreign to you, it won’t be after this new thriller directed by Michael J. Gallagher. Gallagher not only brings us a new pseudo urban legend, but does using a term often used by the controversial hacker group “Anonymous”.

My first reaction after doing some digging, is why such an odd phrase? The phrase is re-posted 3 times by a Internet surfer using a online video chat site (much like “Chat roulette”). How it works is, if a surfer doesn’t like the person on the other end, they can repeat this phrase 3 times into the chat invoking an evil killer named “Smiley“. “Smiley” is the product of an urban legends made real that appears behind the receiver at that moment and slits their throat. The idea follows suite into the tradition of repeat phrase urban legends such as “Candy man”, and “Bloody Mary”. This version appears to a more hipper Internet culture villain that is supposed to have spawned from all the vile evils in the world. Perhaps…..

As we learn, “Smiley” is closer to an abstract creature (than a serial killer) with a carved in and sewn up smile sporting a featureless face without eyes or nose. It of course gets its name from the huge sewn-on smile on its face (happy creepy can definitely appear creepy).

Like iconic villains such as Freddy Krueger, it technically doesn’t exist in the real world and only appears in online videos. The idea of “Smiley” and its origins becomes the films root of discussion about the universe, its trends, the origins of evil and what not. Professor Clayton (Roger Bart) who runs a class on ethics and reason begins to also integrate this abstract reasoning into his lectures. While Clayton provides the films grounding in reason and realism, he also appears to have his own issues about life and its direction.

Though moving on, we have a small cast of characters who keep the film in the right target market for young pre-adult viewers. Caitlin Gerard stars as Ashley, a nerdy new college kid who is experiencing much of the college lifestyle for the first time. For her, it’s a who new way of life being introduced to parties, new friends and the talk of an urban legend named “smiley”. Melanie Papalia plays her roommate Proxy (a key giveaway computer nerd term) who acts as the resident indulging influence between the pair. Andrew James Allen plays the role of Zane, the model stuck up overconfident-wanna-punch-in-the-face collage mutt who you swear could have been played by James Spader in a Spader’s younger years. Youtube actor Shane Dawson arrives in the form of a potential love interest for Ashley under the character name of Binder (who my daughter actually had to update me on since I wasn’t in tune with Youtube celebrities….um, ya). The rest of the characters were at best…. unforgettable, if not annoying.

The film follows the traditions of successful build-up-scare features always alluding to a mystery villain. If your in tune with that, then you can expect a body count, an increase in interactions, a police station that doesn’t believe a word, a school psychiatrist and a brooding professor that somehow gives you the creeps when he isn’t supposed to.

I am guessing that with the film’s surprise ending, that fans will lose a bit of grounding, mostly because it seems unanswered and “matter of fact”. Without spoiling it, the message here is the origin of a viral phenomenon. While that obsession seems a bit too much for the conclusion, it does have merit in the fascination these days within the youth “me-culture”. I believe that director Michael J. Gallagher was trying to flag this notion with his film statement. I also think that the segment is full of a few holes that I’m not sure were really patched up.

I really dug “Smiley” as it is a legitimate return to the old school ways of inventing new character icons and horror foundations. You could probably name off a handful of similar instances in the horror culture that gave way to new offspring.

Smiley“, the movie AND the character provide “that” need that seems to have been missing for many years. Perhaps our fascination with torture p*rn and the like has waned with too much extremism in our culture. Or perhaps we just need new creeps to immerge that provide a reason to be scared. After all, extreme torture is not scary, more than it is gross and unnerving. Though we miss our phantoms, and I belive that “Smiley” appeases that need. “Smiley” just may be the new face of horror for 2012.

Smiley (2012)

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2 Responses to Film Review: Smiley (2012)

  1. Douglas K Bucher says:

    What is the actual name of the professor, and the psychologist?
    We just watched (Smiley) it rocked but.are vary curious about these two names.

  2. Aïcha says:

    The producer himself was also a YouTuber, TotallySketch, and most of the cast were people knowen from youtube.

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