Ever felt the need to punch the lights out of a film’s director after sitting through their latest effort – ostensibly with the hope of stopping them directing again?

Now I know that is pretty extreme, but, trust me, if you bother to wade through Smiley you’ll probably be gunning for helmer Michael Gallagher as much as I was.

A poorly-plotted, overly-talky and amateurishly acted slice of slasher horror (although bizarrely without the slash for much of the running time), this is what you get when a bunch of youngsters and youtube wannabes get given too much money – it ain’t pretty.

The idea in itself is quite an interesting one – Candyman for the modern generation if you will.

The hook is that if you stumble across someone you don’t like while in an anonymous online chatroom, by simply typing in ‘I did it for the lulz’ (a phrase that is repeated ad nauseum during the film and made my toes curl each time) three times, ‘Smiley’ will appear behind them and carve them up.

No backstory is given for Smiley whatsoever, other than to make clear his ‘face’ is simply a pair of sewn-shut eyes and a carved smile – which, to be fair is pretty effective and the one thing the film has going for it.

Anyways, the story follows troubled student Ashley (Caitlin Gerard), leaving home for the first time and setting off for college in the wake of her mum committing suicide.

Before long she stumbles across the legend of Smiley and, after ‘accidentally’ killing someone online, becomes convinced that the killer is stalking her.

Can she get to the bottom of the mystery? Can she survive? Is Smiley even real?

I’m not going to go into much more detail, suffice to say that the film manages to get more annoying as it trundles along, then throws in a twist ending that will have you fuming.

As if that is not bad enough, we then get a further twist that makes no sense whatsoever, and even then Gallagher insists on throwing in another reveal after the closing credits (although how many people will still be watching by then is up for debate).

It’s hard to start on where exactly the film went wrong, as it’s pretty much from the first minute.

A couple of weeks back I reviewed The Last Exorcism Part 2 and bemoaned the over-use of jump shocks, but Smiley even outstrips that effort.

There are three false scares within the opening few minutes – embarrassingly I’ll admit the first one got me, but from then on every time director Gallagher felt the pace flagging he throws in a jump shock – which is a lot of times I can tell you.

The acting is dire, hardly surprising when you consider a number of the cast were simply selected due to their internet/youtube popularity – although some gloss is added by appearances from Roger Bart and Keith David.

The pacing is awful, with huge chunks given over to Bart’s college lectures, which oh-so conveniently happen to relate exactly to the predicament Ashley finds herself in.

Smiley himself is on screen for barely more than a couple of minutes, and the kills are pretty bloodless affairs so you don’t even get any kicks from that side of things.

But, more than all that, the biggest stumbling block I had with Smiley was the almost suffocating sense of smugness that pervades the screen, as though the makers honestly thought they were putting together something good.

I don’t often go off on one about films, but with Smiley I’ll happily make an exception.

I hated the direction, I hated the acting, I hated the plot and I more than hated the stupid ending/s.

In short – I hated it.


VERDICT: [rating=1]


About The Author

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Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle