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Smiley – 5

Director – Michael J. Gallagher

Cast – Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Andrew James Allen, Liza Weil, Roger Bart, Keith David, Toby Turner, Michael Traynor, Jana Winternitz, Nikki Limo

Release Year – 2012

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Maybe it was the marketing, the awesome trailer, or the creepy looking killer, but for some reason Smiley received a lot of pre-release buzz back in 2012 and then lost buzzworthy status when it premiered. The initial reviews claimed it was a waste of time, the later reviews said the same, but my review will not follow the trend. OK, so Smiley is far from great and not a film that I would recommend, but it was nowhere near as bad as others said it was, giving it 1/10 ratings like they’d never seen The Room. As mentioned above, the film does provide a creepy killer who looks unlike any I have ever seen, and with decent kills and positive atmosphere Smiley was not a complete waste of my time.

It is her first year of college and Ashley, still suffering from the death of her mother, comes across even more grief when she finds herself stalked by a serial killer after participating in a “lulzy” urban legend.

Writer/director Michael J. Gallagher and co-writer Ezra Cooperstein give viewers a story that is unlike any we have seen despite this being a typical run-of-the-mill urban legend / slasher film overall. How do they do that? Well, they do that by giving us a story additive I have never seen used in the genre…Anonymous. The film’s story plays heavily on the leaderless team of lulzers/hactivists and even brings /b/ into the picture, potentially pissing off some of those who wish to keep things “anonymous” but nonetheless giving us something different for once. The story aims to provide a little bit of character development for Ashley, who struggles at meeting new people and must rely on her roommate for companionship. They soon meet a group of Anons who make them aware of Smiley, a man whose face is entirely made up of incisions made by a large blade, and the urban legend behind him. Apparently, all you have to do is type in “I did it for the lulz” three times in a video chat and the person will be killed by Smiley, and while chatting with someone she does not like Ashley does just that and much to her surprise…the man is brutally murdered in front of her by a grotesque killer matching Smiley’s description. The terror does not stop there though, as Ashley is constantly harassed with the ever-present fear that Smiley is stalking her and invading her dreams. As more and more of the people around her are killed by Smiley it becomes very apparent that he is not a mere urban legend, he is the real thing. This story throws in plenty of kills and grabs our attention early on with a few solid slayings, and aside from the kills and killer the film does not have much going for it. The majority of the experience feels uninspired and that naturally transferred to the horror as well.

Gallagher’s direction does little to save the story and instead adds to the mediocrity with cheap quick-scares and a lack of emotion during the kill scenes. Why would I want at least some emotion during scenes of horror? Death brings emotion, trauma, grief, etc., and none of these were executed well into the story. Thankfully Gallagher makes the film visually appealing with good atmosphere, a positive acting performance from Roger Bart, and a spooky killer unlike any I have seen. I enjoyed that Smiley was not entirely brought to us with CGI effects and live-action gore was provided as well, although it never comes bountiful. I can see Gallagher improving on his trade given he seems to have some of the more important elements of horror down, but only time will tell…and that is if he gets another chance.

Overall, Smiley is not the absolutely horrible film that many others claim it to be, but it is definitely not a good one either. In the end the story and execution leave it just a mediocre tale with some decent kills and a cool killer.

Rating: 5/10

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