When people tell ghost stories around a campfire, they are hoping to incite fear into the minds of people through a specific idea. The same can be said for email chain letter hoaxes. It is usually these types of ideas that scare us more than any horror film ever could. Some movies try to take that same method and incorporate it into a horror film, which tends to make that specific movie among the scariest in an expanding world of horror films. However, what happens when a horror film takes the legend of Bloody Mary and revamps it for the digital age? “Smiley” may not be about Bloody Mary exactly, but the legend on its own is almost identical.
Caitlin Gerard stars as Ashley, a girl who has just started at a brand new school. On the outside, she is a sweet, conservative, and intelligent girl with a drive to succeed in school. On the inside, she shows slight interest in the pastimes of college life and the temptation to do anything she wants. When her roommate invites her to a college party, Ashley agrees and has no idea what she has gotten herself into. An urban legend has been spreading its way around college campuses about a serial killer named “Smiley” that shows up on a stranger-to-stranger video chartroom when one chatter types the words “I did it for the lulz” three times, and it kills the other stranger. Students first thought the killer to be some kind of prank, and never took it too seriously until Smiley started coming after them as well.
The story in this film is not what makes it so bad. It is a story that has actually worked well in the past. The problem comes with the execution. The idea on its own works because there is a creepy-looking killer that lives inside a legend. Sure, that is the same premise of many horror films, but it is a proven premise. Everything, however, about the execution feels broken and not taken seriously. The acting, for instance, is not even remotely good. First of all, a horror film has to at least have people that look genuinely frightened, and this film doesn’t have that. Second of all, there is just nothing memorable or special about any of the performances. Sure, Smiley himself has a pretty recognizable face, but beyond that? Nothing.
Next, the movie went a step too far in trying to explain everything. Horror films don’t need to be explained. If you are in a campfire, saying “and then the man with the hook cut off the head of the couple on Valentine’s Day” and then proceeded to explain how the man with the hook for a hand Googled the couple to pinpoint where they would be just so he could kill them…you’re going to lose any form of thrill you once had. No one cares to hear it. We don’t care to hear about how theoretically the internet will one day gain its own consciousness and live all on its own, which is how this creature came about. We just want to see the creature, so just call it what it is, which is paranormal.
Finally, the movie just completely stopped making sense towards the end of the movie. They took it way too far trying to throw in twists that just made no sense whatsoever. It ended up looking so stupid. Throughout the movie you may be thinking that it is okay, maybe a 50/100 rating, but once that twist happens that doesn’t shock you, just confuses you (and not in a good way), your rating will drop down to somewhere around 30/100. When movies give you a reason to think “why did I even take the time to watch this movie”, that’s disappointment. Any movie that disappoints you doesn’t deserve to be seen by anyone else. For that, I say stay away from “Smiley”, which came to Blu-Ray and DVD on Feb. 12!