For the longest time, I was convinced that Smiley wasn’t a real movie. Sure there were images and information, but something about the whole thing just felt off. Not to mention it felt like it was being talked about for years. But here we are. It’s on video on demand, it’s getting a brief theatrical run, and people have started to actually see it. Oh and also it’s terrible.
Man, where do I even start with this thing? Ok so the premise of Smiley is that there’s this urban legend that is started on real life website 4chan (maybe don’t go there if you don’t already know what it is) then if you’re on a certain chat site (this movie’s version of Chat roulette) and type in “I did it for the lulz” three times (I wish I were making that up, I really do), then Smiley will appear behind the other person and stab them. Smiley is this...thing...whose face is nothing but two cuts for eyes and a third for a mouth. It’s about the only creepy/neat thing about this entire movie, and you barely ever get to see it so tough luck.
Throughout this marathon I’ve given several movies shit because they feature ridiculously unlikable characters.Smiley however is the absolute worst example yet. First of all we have our lead girl whose name I already forget. She is not so much unlikable as she is terribly written. She is so cartoonishly naive that I kept waiting for her to ask, “Wait what’s the Internet?” when the situation was being explained to her. Just watch the scene where she smokes pot for the first time. I don’t care if it’s your first time, you wouldn’t say shit like “I think I’m high on marijuana!” She then spends the rest of the movie screaming and acting insane. Her roommate Proxy is your typical “you just need to get laid” roommate character. Bland, disposable, who cares.
Then we have the core group of hackers, who are actually said to be members of real life hacker group Anonymous. These guys are fucking AWFUL! It’s everything you hate about assholes on the Internet, put into human form and encapsulated in the most grating performances I’ve witnessed in a while. Everything out of these guys’ mouth is the worst. They just spout memes left and right (Pedobear, Chocolate Rain, etc), laugh after everything they say, and generally act like enourmous dicks constantly. Apparently the only direction for these guys was “You can never be more over the top and terrible!” and they abided because good lord.
We also have Shane Dawson, one of the more baffling Internet phenomenons, as the nerdy hacker (we know he’s a nerd because he says it at least 9 times) love interest. He’s the exact opposite of the others, he’s so bland that it makes his popularity that much more confusing. The only person who walks away relatively unscathed is Keith David, who has a very quick cameo as the required “I don’t believe you” authority figure.
Now the core concept of Smiley appearing behind people and stabbing them leads to one crucial element missing from this movie. Something every slasher movie needs - chase scenes. This has one of them, and it lasts about 10 seconds. Anytime Smiley appears, he stabs someone and moves on. There’s no suspense or tension, just hey guys! Stab! Gotta go! They get around this by giving the main girl mental issues (because of course the main girl has mental issues), causing her to start hallucinating and seeing Smiley everywhere. This is how the movie gets in its quota of LOUD NOISE scares since Smiley can appear anywhere now. It serves as nothing but an excuse to get the cheap scares in there, and feels like padding on an already very slight movie.
There’s some potential to the idea of people facing real world consequences for their Internet bullshit. This is not that movie. The main message here is that assholes on the Internet are assholes in real life. Nothing too groundbreaking. And the ending, oh god the ending. At one point I thought maybe that would be the twist, but concluded it was far too stupid and wouldn’t make any sense. Apparently the movie felt otherwise because imagine my surprise as I watched my rejected idea unfold in front of me. It’s not shocking, it’s completely laughable. It was the movie’s one chance at redemption and it fucked it up worse than I imagined.
It might work as a movie to make fun of with friends, but as an actual movie Smiley is god-awful. It’s a bunch of assholes and poorly written characters spouting terrible dialogue and forced Internet memes, and nothing ever really happens to them! Almost all the deaths happen off screen and the hallucination angle is pointless except to work in more cheap scares. Fuck this movie.