Smiley is a movie about what happens when an urban legend on the internet becomes “real.” The story goes, if you are video chatting with someone and you type “I did it for the Lulz” three times, then Smiley will appear behind that person and then kill them while you watch. This isn’t like Candyman or Bloody Mary though, you actually have to want the person to die. How Smiley measures that I’m not quite sure, but if he can appear anywhere, then I guess he can figure it out. This is definitely a lower budget thriller, but they don’t skimp when it comes to the villain. Smiley has sewn his eyes shut and carved a big smile almost like the Joker onto his face. He’s definitely on the creepy side, though not even close to intimidating as even a regular circus clown. I guess Smiley’s real power is that you may not believe in him until the moment he kills the victim you asked him to off, and then once you see him, then he gets to come after you and kill you. This is something that the person telling you the story will most likely leave out, as they haven’t tried to summon Smiley themselves and are hoping they can trick you into doing it. So the movie is kind of a mix of Feardotcom and Candyman, though with way more internet references than either of those.
The funny thing about this movie is that the prologue scene that sets up Smiley as the villain and tells us how you can call him was well acted and more compelling than the main story, which had lots of stereotypical characters and less action than I expected.
Ashley is starting college again after some trouble brought on by a tragedy in her family. She could live at home or in the dorm, but decides to move in with Proxy. Proxy’s mom, in a situation we’ve already seen this year in The Apparition, bought a house and can’t sell it. Said house happens to be near the school, so Proxy can stay there while she goes to college. Ashley and Proxy don’t seem like well-fitted roomies from the very beginning, with Ashley being more the studious type and Proxy being a party girl.
Proxy drags Ashley to a party thrown by people from 4Chan, where they meet Zane, who thinks he’s a playboy and a bunch of other people who only know each other from the internet. They also learn about Smiley and how to summon him up.
Ashley and Proxy leave the party and go home to test out whether Smiley is real. Ashley ends up being the one who types in the killing phrase three times, and both girls are shocked when Smiley appears and kills the total stranger on the other end of their webcam. Proxy berates Ashley into not going to the police, and pretty much spends the rest of the movie alternating wildly between being Ashley’s friend and almost physically abusing her to keep her quiet.
Ashley feels guilty for sending Smiley to kill someone and goes to her Logic and Morals professor for help. It’s obvious to everyone but her that he wants to have sex with her, and he even tries to lure her to his office to do so.
We learn about more Smiley victims and Ashley is chased a bunch of times by someone she’s convinced is Smiley, once even into her house, where Smiley could kill her but doesn’t. This is where I started to get suspicious of the plot.
We learn that Ashley’s been under psychological care before and also on meds for depression after her mom died, and now she fears that her psychosis may be returning.
There’s a lot of talking in this film and a lot of sequences that start out good and lead nowhere interesting, either ending up being dreams or visions by Ashley or just mistaken identity. Weirdly, I felt like Professor Clayton’s performance improved dramatically during his speech about moral decay, which was well-written enough to give me chills that Smiley the killer couldn’t manage. I enjoyed the dip into nihilism and it works quite well with the ending of the film, though said ending is . . . we’ll get there.
Smiley is in some way a symptom of a greater problem, one none of the other characters even realizes is an issue. That, for me, was more interesting than Ashley trying to maintain her sanity or being chased around by Smiley. I feel like the script shouldn’t have made her have a psychological issue in the past, only because it’s expected and not very original anymore. Better for Ashley to have been of sound mind and then convinced she’d gone crazy after seeing Smiley popping up everywhere.
Ashley and Proxy hit on a plan to end Smiley’s reign of terror, and it’s Ashley, because of her guilt, that feels like she has to let Proxy say “I did it for the lulz” to her and let Smiley appear behind her. She’s a poor man’s Nancy, trying to take on her Freddy all by herself, and lucky for her, Smiley is no relative of Mr. Krueger.
I won’t ruin the end sequence, though I will say I kind of guessed the ending about halfway through the film. There’s also a scene at the end of the credits, though it’s very short and I expected to see it there.
While not a great flick, Smiley could have easily been a ScyFy movie or part of the After Dark Originals series, so for horror fans it’s worth a look just to see where they went wrong. I don’t expect there to be a sequel, and I will probably not go if there is one. Ok, that’s a lie; I’ll go just to see if ole Smiley can make me crack a grin.