Directed by Michael J. Gallagher
Smiley is the latest slasher character to be introduced to the onceexciting but now stale genre and despite not uttering a word, he certainly makes his mark with this breath-of-fresh-air slasher flick.
Set in the modern age, where everyone lives their life on the internet – from spilling their most inane daily routines and dirty laundry on Facebook to anyone who’ll listen, to forging friendships and relationships online via messageboards – the internet is the ideal playground for a killer. Smiley focuses on the video chat aspect of the internet. Sites like Chat Roulette allow people with webcams to start conversations with random people on the internet. You have no usernames or control over who you’re paired with, except you’re armed with a ‘next’ button to skip to another random person. Of course, this opens a can of worms upon itself, as sites like Chat Roulette are known for users to indecently expose themselves to strangers, something which Smiley does touch upon in the film. But where does the mutilated serial killer Smiley fit in?
Like a hi-tech version of Candyman, Smiley is summoned when the person you chat to online types ‘I did it for the lulz‘ in the chatbox three times. As if by magic, the eerily disfigured killer appears and slices you to pieces. This is how charming these internet conversations can be. I half expected two people who were in the ‘know’ about Smiley to have a race on who could type out the lulz phrase the quickest, but that didn’t happen. Instead, poor unsuspecting young adults are being sliced from ear to ear just so the person on the other end of the computer can see if the urban myth is true or not.
Smiley focusses its attention on a teenage girl named Ashley who’s living away from home properly for the first time since her mother’s suicide. Ashley is a self-confessed bookworm, who loves her father very much and isn’t usually one for getting involved with anything deemed naughty. This all changes when she moves in with Proxy, a fellow college student who opens up Ashley’s eyes to the world of drink, drugs and social meets. It is at a party where Ashley first gets a glimpse of the lives of the cyber college kids, as they torment and bully one of the unwelcomed visitors to their party. In the corner of the room, a couple of the guys decide to unleash Smiley onto a stranger on chat and watching a knife tear through the stranger’s body on the computer leaves Ashley shaken… but not enough to deter her from trying it herself!
Whilst the script is a tad weak at times and the performances of most of the teens so-so, the inclusion of mature accomplised actors Roger Bart (Desperate Housewives, Hostel Part II) and Keith David (Platoon, Cloud Atlas), as the college professor and the police detective respectively, give the film the conviction it needs to pack a punch. They also represent a contrast to the kids, depicting a generational gap between those who grew up with the internet and those who didn’t. With many possessing the ability of creating and modding photos and images on the internet, it’s no surprise that the older generation do not take the kids seriously, not to the mention the impossibility that a madman could potentially be anywhere instantly, summoned by a computer user… or could it?
Smiley is an inventive and current take on the slasher genre, and whilst the man himself may not spill as much blood as our beloved Ghostface, he certainly sends a creepy chill into the heart of those who look into his stitched eye holes and wide ‘smiley’ grin. A great introduction to what could be a fantastic horror icon.
Is this the start of a new slasher franchise?