Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
Towards the end of film, a crass pretty-boy named Zane delivers a diatribe about how important Smiley is. He asserts that people will obsess over and deconstruct the events that just took place. Smiley, he proclaims, will go viral. The character was talking about the killings in the film but I interpreted this as co-writer/directer Michael J. Gallagher believing the film is a landmark piece of cinema for the Anonymous cyber-age and that people will be discussing it many years form now.
They won’t be. Smiley is a bottom-tier, post-Scream slasher with a big ego. It’s about a masked killer named Smiley (duh) who appears when users of a ChatRoulette-like site type “I did it for the lulz” three times. Ashley (Caitlin Gerard) is a harmless, blonde lamb who’s just started college. Her roommate Proxy (Melanie Papalia) is a generically edgy party girl whose name is fucking “Proxy.” Proxy takes Ashley along to a party filled with smug dudes (including the aforementioned Zane) from an anonymous online forum where they post memes, offensive videos, and probably jpegs of their balls.
Everyone rolls their eyes about how little Ashley knows of the dark side of the internet, so they pop her cyber-cherry by going on the ChatRoulette site and typing “I did it for the lulz” three times. The user on the other end is stabbed to death and this should have been the right time for Ashley to think about finding another roommate. Instead she gets swept up in their online hijinks and the bodies start piling up at the hands of Smiley.
Director Gallagher teases us a bit by treading into psychological horror territory in the vein of Polanski, but then he must’ve realized he doesn’t have the chops for that kinda stuff so he reverts to volleys of cheap jump-scares. They’re the worst kind of jump-scare too. The camera moves like a POV killer, creeps up behind Ashley, then she turns around and OH it’s just my roommate. “Ugh you shouldn’t creep up behind people like that,” she probably said. This happens like 10 times.
This Gallagher guy is 24-years-old but writes dialogue like he’s never heard a person under 30 say a word. Some of the things that come out of Proxy and Ashley’s mouth are laughably bad. One of the worst bits is when Zane and Proxy are trying to explain to Ashley what a hacker does. Ashley practically pulls her hair out listening to these goofs. I almost did too.
The great character actor Keith “I Didn’t Take It Out for Air” David makes a brief appearance to explain to Ashley how ridiculous the Smiley situation sounds. The only other black guy with a speaking role gets one line. He says “Amen, brother!” Roger Bart (Hostel II) plays a logic professor who happens to be the only entertaining aspect of the entire film. He even manages to inject some life into Gallagher’s dismal dialogue.
So no, people won’t be discussing Smiley years from now. It’s a conventional slasher that covers subject matter already well covered by superior films, including Scream and Urban Legend. I get what they were going for by updating this material for the cyber-obsessed age, but there’s no real depth in the film to make it all worth a damn.
Overall Score: 1/5