Film Review: Smiley
Fuck, when was the last time I did a film review? Over a month ago? And it wasn’t even a real one?
Luckily, I have an excellent slasher movie to reacquaint me with the filmic arts.
That was a lie.
TL;DR Unbearably dull, un-scary and surprisingly out of touch with the Internet culture it’s trying to portray, Smiley is totes bad lolz (I’m so 1337) bhahaha trollol! 1 out of 5 stars.
How else did you think the movie with Shane Dawson would turn out?
Okay, let’s try to put this pathetic plot together. Ashley is some naive blonde bitch who moves to a new house at a new college and has some vague mental health history. Her housemate is a totes hip computer geek named Proxy. Yes. Proxy. They go to a totes hip computer geek 4chan party (what?) where they become entangled in an Internet urban legend called Smiley. It’s your typical Bloody Mary gambit, except you have to type “I did it for the lulz” (seriously) 3 times into a chat window, and then Smiley will materialise and kill the person you typed it to. So it’s like a much more selfish Bloody Mary. Blah blah blah everyone starts getting killed by Smiley as Ashley thinks she might be going insane. Shane Dawson is some nerd that she likes or something. But the ending, as all post 90s slasher movies must painfully perpetuate, is a twist: Shane, Proxy and co made it all up so Ashley would go crazy (bonus points for killing herself). They did it for the lulz. Ugh.
Also, double twist: Smiley might be real after all. Ooh. Spooky.
The premise is a problem. It’s objectively not that bad. There are far worse slasher movie premises out there. Remember Valentine?
But the movie in its entirety is such a boring piece of shit. The characters are so generic, the pace is slower than a snail on Ambien, and the tone is laughably wrong. Up until the twist ending, it takes itself super seriously. Why? The best slasher films of the post-Scream era find a working balance between the horror of the killing and the humour of the setup. Smiley doesn’t even try.
Worse, the ending is kind of an insult. After having sat through this tragic, dull excuse for a horror movie, they land the “I did it for the lulz” ending. Which, to be honest, is actually pretty cool. So what the viewer comes away with is the knowledge that the filmmakers did have something interesting in their arsenal, but lumped us with 90 minutes of boring nothingness just so they could ass-pull a twist ending.
Which is then immediately invalidated by the double twist of Smiley possibly being real.
Why I hate this movie:
The amount of Internet cringe is ridiculous. The people who made Smiley are Youtube stars and I would assume Internet-savvy. Apparently not.
The most unforgivable application of this lack of savvy is the fucking 4chan party. Really?
The people who go on 4chan (myself included, so that should tell you something) are not attractive, fit, young 20-something college students who have parties. Or friends. I know I know, not everyone who posts on the Internet is a socially retarded neckbeard, but come on. Do they really expect anyone with even the faintest knowledge of /b/ to believe any of that? It’s embarrassing.
Proxy also has to explain /b/ to Ashley. Oh boy.
Then you’ve got Smiley himself, who is literally supposed to be a reference to a smiley emoticon. Let me recap that for you: the villain of the movie is an emoticon. Holy. Fuck.
Ashley comes to believe (with coaxing from her not-really-friends, so I’ll forgive her a bit for it) that Smiley is the personification of Internet evil. Like, he has come into being because of all the negativity posted online. Lol wut?
Also, “lulz” sounds fucking shit when said out loud. And these poor characters have to say it a lot. It’s bad.
Roger Bart appears in a few scenes as Ashley’s professor. This is disappointing for 2 reasons. 1) He’s Mason from Revenge. I mean, Revenge is Revenge, but what the fuck is he doing here? 2) His entire role is essentially shoe-horned in so he can spell out some of the philosophical bullshit the movie is trying to convey. He theorises that the Internet will one day become conscious. What the actual fuck?
Keith David turns up for, like, 2 scenes as a detective who doesn’t do anything. I’d say this is dark days for his career, and it is, but he was also a detective in the equally awful, Internet-based slasher movie Chain Letter. At least that one had Nikki “I’m still famous even though Twilight is over, right?” Reed getting ripped apart.
Ashley’s scream is way too shrill. How did she even get cast as the lead in a slasher movie with a shriek like that?
Nobody suggests just not using video chat as a way to keep Smiley away.
Oh, and seriously, how did a movie made by Youtubers turn out so shallow and condescending towards Internet culture? I can smell some whiffs of executive meddling, but come on. I may be an Internet malcontent hipster, but the only people who are going to seek this movie out would be informed enough to not need to be talked down to.
Reasons to watch:
Shane Dawson isn’t that bad, I guess.
The premise by itself is half decent: a Bloody Mary that you call on other people instead of calling him on yourself.
The scene where Ashley and Proxy test out Smiley on someone is unintentionally hilarious. And apart from some minor freaking out, Ashley gets over the fact that she murdered somebody pretty quickly.
Ashley gets drunk and vomits one time. That was pretty funny.
Probably the feature closest to redeeming Smiley is the whole “I did it for the lulz” aspect. Everyone (except Ashley. Who is dead) turns out to be profoundly amoral and cruel. They literally only did it as an experiment to propagate Smiley to other groups of crazy /b/ fans. For anyone who’s ever set foot on 4chan, the Youtube comments section or any forum really, there is a truth in there.
Bascially, Smiley is showing what trolls would look like if they actually carried out their online behaviours IRL. It’s a shame that this genuinely provocative idea is buried under the blandest slasher movie ever.
Keith David gets best line when Ashley’s trying to explain Smiley to him: “I’m gonna tell you the part I’m having a hard time with: all of it!” So say we all.
Oh, and although it turns out to be fake, it was incredibly satisfying to watch Shane Dawson get shot and have his throat slit. It’s no Bieber, but it made me happy.
The only thing Smiley does right is make a single, wry comment on the amorality of the Internet. Yeah, I already know about that. 1 out of 5 stars.