At a time when the majority of the population is connected in some way through social media whether that is facebook, twitter, youtube or the like it is inevitable that there will be filmmakers who take this as their inspiration. Smiley is one such film, with it's plot centred around the shady world of the anonymous internet chatroom.
When Ashley (Caitlin Gerard) moves into a house with Proxy (Melanie Papalia) she is looking forward to a new term at college. That evening when the girls attend a party they hear about an urban myth known as Smiley from host Zane (Andrew James Allen). The myth states that if, while on a certain chatroom, you type “I did it for the lulz” 3 times then Smiley appears and kills the person you are chatting with. When videos of the these apparent murders begin appearing on the internet the girls decide to find out for themselves if it is an elaborate prank or for real and fire up the laptop. They find a suitable candidate on the chatroom, type the required text and after a few tense moments their unfortunate victim is viciously attacked and killed by Smiley.
Now terrified and lacking support from her housemate, Ashley enlists the help of college nerd Binder (Shane Dawson) to help her investigate. As she tries her unsympathetic college professor Clayton (Roger Bart) and a disbelieving police detective (Keith David) she slowly begins to question her own sanity and struggles to differentiate between what is real and what is fantasy.
It may seem overly critical but it would not be exaggerating to say that Smiley is terrible. Writer and director Michael J Gallagher has hit upon a really good idea but somehow, possibly through over thinking it and trying to be just a little too clever, he has turned it into a dull, lifeless horror film that relies solely on overused “boo scares “ to frighten it's audience. There are too many cliches, too many formulaic horror staples here for Smiley to be of interest and the obvious influences of Scream and Candyman are just too obvious and verge upon simple copying.
The cast are also a problem. Ashley is simply a stereotyped horror victim as she seems to spend the majority of the film screaming and the supporting characters act somewhat randomly, occasionally switching personality in the blink of an eye. Only Roger Bart and Keith David add some gravity to the production but they just appear to be going through the motions and seem a little embarrassed to be here. The direction switches between loud, in your face aggression to quiet sombre moments that don't connect and give the film an irregular pacing which is irritating after a while. Some of the plot also revolves around Ashley's bipolar condition and a previous breakdown which I didn't think was handled very sensitively and I don't think was necessary to the main story.
To sum up, Smiley is not a film I would recommend. There are too many much better alternatives in the genre to waste time here. As I said there is an idea in there somewhere but the finished work is too messy, too confused to be of much interest. The worst thing though is that, in the tradition of too many films these days, the ending has been left open for a sequel.