It was the trailer for Smiley that had me excited when I eventually was handed the DVD copy for screening. The teaser revealed some sort of man/creature that looked to have its eyes sewed shut as was its mouth that was sown in the shape of a smiling face (ahhh, get it?). It’s been far too long since the horror genre has been introduced to a new villain that is both terrifying and franchiseable. And, in the trailers at least, Smiley looked to have both.
The film follows young Ashley (Catlin Gerard) as she heads to a new College. We learn that Ashley has been dealing with the recent death of her mother, but that is just a small piece of character information that really doesn’t head anywhere except the proverbial dead end.
Even in some form of grief, Ashley seems to have no issues meeting new people and making friends and it is during a College party that Ashley learns of the urban legend of ‘Smiley’. Smiley, is an online killer who kills people after someone types in “It’s all about the lulz” three times on their computer. It’s just a variation of saying “Candyman” three times into a mirror and is one of the many copies, cheats and clichés that Smiley steals from better films.
Ashley is a witness to one of Smiley’s murders while webcaming and between the stress of her mother’s passing, the stress of seeing others die she begins to question her own sanity. Soon, Ashley is seeing Smiley in dreams and feels like the serial killer is chasing her.
But is Smiley real or is he just a figment of her wild imagination? That is the question that writer/director Michael J. Gallagher is hoping keeps audiences watching Smiley through the uninspired plot.
There are no scares, little characters of interest and there is a plot twist – actually, two plot twists – at the end of the film that tries to make up for the lackluster first 85-minutes suggesting that the film was actually smarter than we gave it credit.
And with all this failure, the film wastes what looked to be an interesting new horror character and a small supporting role by Keith David. What we are left with is a film that steals from the likes of Scream, Candyman, dot.com and a few other horror movies; movies that are far its superior.