I really wanted to like Smiley. And I really want to tell you that it is a fun slasher flick that serves as an introduction to a great new killer. But I can’t, and if you’re looking for something to watch during the spooky season, look elsewhere. This is a pretentious, scare-free, and ridiculously stupid horror movie.
The opening provides background information on a serial killer known as Smiley. A young girl tells her babysitter all about the urban legend. You visit a site called Hide and Go Chat (explained as being like Skype except you don’t know who you’re talking to) and engage a stranger in an online chat. Then you type “I did it all for the lulz” three times. Smiley, with eyes stitched shut and a carved smile, appears behind you and guts you with their knife.
Cut to Ashley (an awful Caitlin Gerard), a troubled college student grieving over her mother’s suicide. Despite her father’s concerns, she moves into a house near campus and hopes to lead a normal life. This is one of those college campuses that for some reason is always completely empty. Literally. Every time Ashley walks around, day or night, there is no one else around.
Before long Ashley and her roommate attend a house party. All anyone talks about is Hide and Go Chat and Smiley. Is he real? Are the killings real? No one can say for sure but everyone assumes it’s all a prank. Everyone but Ashley. To try and prove once and for all that Smiley doesn’t exist, Ashley plays the game. Of course Smiley shows up and kills someone. Poor Ashley is terrified but no one believes her. Not her friends and not the police. Now Smiley is stalking her and knows who she is. What is she to do?
You will find it very hard to care. For starters, Smiley is hardly ever on screen save for brief dream sequences, in which case he’s not really there. The fake out dream sequence is utilized not once but twice. Even worse, I cannot remember the last time a movie employed as many boo scares as Smiley does. From beginning to end not 10 minutes goes by without one. It becomes comical.
There is also way too much talking. Smiley fancies itself some kind of philosophical horror movie. Roger Bart plays a professor who continuously goes on long tangents about reality and the nature of evil. None are interesting or anything you haven’t heard a million times before. You’ll feel like you’re in a boring college class. Adding insult to injury, Ashley pays the professor a couple visits during his office hours where said tangents are repeated. The movie takes itself too seriously.
With all the dime-store philosophy and little Smiley action, no suspense is ever generated and there’s hardly any blood/gore. Smiley isn’t scary because he’s hardly ever seen. Making matters worse is the fact that all of the characters are beyond irritating, especially Ashley. She is constantly in hysterics and screaming about something. Her college friends are a bunch of self-centered assholes. You’ll wish all of them dead and your wish will not be granted.
At one point Ashley actually has an online chat with Smiley that is unintentionally hilarious. By that time it’s painfully clear that Smiley has little to offer and isn’t going to be even a decent slasher flick. It’s talky, dull, self-important, and lacks a single moment of genuine tension.