Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Smiley (2012) Review

Smiley posterDirector: Michael Gallagher
Stars: Caitlin Gerard, Shane Dawson, Toby Turner
Genre: Horror

I might as well get straight to the point and say that I was pretty disappointed by Smiley. Disappointed because it was a bit...better than I expected. No, that's not the right wording. I should say it was more serious than I expected. It's a pretty awful film, and I did kind of expect it to be, but I thought it'd be cheesy and over-the-top in classic slasher fashion. I thought it'd be fun.

But it wasn't, which I suppose is somewhat admirable since Smiley tried to be a bit different rather than taking the easy route and just making the antagonist go around and kill a bunch of people. But the film never really comes together to be a satisfying experience.

The film is about an internet urban legend where if you're webcam chatting with someone and you type in "i did it for the lulz" into the chat box three times a guy named Smiley will come up behind that person and kill them. Yes, that's right, you have to type in "i did it for the lulz." It's essentially a modernized Bloody Mary. Anyway, these two girls want to see if it's true so they try it and get a guy killed, but then the one girl fears that Smiley is coming to kill her and so on and so forth.

The film tried to be very modern, name-dropping particular imageboards and hacker groups (which quite upset the imageboards and hacker groups mentioned; rules 1 & 2). I'm not a huge fan of films doing this, it tends to feel trendy and forced, which it does in Smiley. Even the main antagonist is named after an emoticon. People unfamiliar with the internet probably won't even understand what they're talking about and those who are familiar will realize how fake they sound, and probably get pretty pissed off at them.

The scares are cheap as ever. Just about nearly every scare is one of those fake kind of scares where it's really just their friend coming up behind them or them bumping into a stranger. I hate those kind of scares. A film can get away with doing that once or twice but this film probably holds the record for most pseudo-scares in a single film. It gets annoying and after the first few times it stops being shocking and it becomes expected and unscary. Shock scares are just so easy to do and when they're not even an actual threat it's even easier.

But I suppose that's the theme of the film: nothing is as it seems. The main character thinks she may be crazy at some points, is sometimes unsure what is real and not. The film kind of even convinces you that she's actually just crazy and imagining it all. (Spoiler: Which is kind of true, but this technique made the ending a bit more satisfying.)

I will admit from now on I'll probably think of this film every time I talk to someone over webcam, so I suppose it deserves some credit for that.

But is Smiley the horror villain for the internet generation as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kreuger were to the kids of the 80s. I hope not. Let's try to do a bit better.

Caitlin Gerard screaming in Smiley

A lot of the camera angles compliment the scares pretty well, but there's nothing really too outstanding here. I liked how what was going on in the main character's life was reflected in her college class discussions. That was cool, slightly cliche, but cool.

[The following paragraph will contain spoilers] In the end we find out it was all a prank by the hardcore internet users of the film. They drive the main girl to suicide and then they all laugh about it. It's pretty sick. They all chant "For the lulz" at the end in unison. It's an obvious commentary on how much is too much, and how anonymity can lead people to do things they wouldn't normally.  Basically a statement on the internet generation.

I like films that make a statement and have something to say. And a lot of what Smiley tries to point out I find to be agreeable. But, alas, the film is still pretty shitty and the ending really isn't satisfying. Incredibly grim, yes, which I like, but still not very good.

The film's cast is filmed with mostly generally unknown actors. Well-known YouTubers Shane Dawson and Toby Turner are in here. I'm not much fans of their work, but none of the actors in here are very talented. They do a suffice enough job but it's all very mediocre. Caitlin Gerard has such a beautiful smile though.

The antagonist/killer wielding his signature knife in Smiley

You may think going into this, as I did, that it will be a regular slasher film. Which makes sense if you've read the synopsis or watched the trailer. I mean the monster looks like he belongs in a slasher film. You'll find something a bit different, it's to an extent a slasher, it's more psychological horror, but it really doesn't do justice to any subgenre.

So even though the film tries to, it really doesn't do anything new and it plays out like a very typical horror film. There are some interesting things, and the film's ultimate goal seemed to present a message, which I suppose it achieved. But, I can't really recommend it.

2/5 stars
Pros:
+Tries to be a bit different than other slashers
+Has something to say
Cons:
-Ends up being pretty typical
-Scares are cheap and dull
-Acting is sub-par
-Tries too hard to appeal to internet audiences, ultimately fails
-Nothing here is outstanding
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