Director Tim Hunter’s true story inspired horror Smiley Face Killers has just been released, and I’ve always found the true crimes interesting, so I decided to check it out. What I found wasn’t good.
The synopsis reads as followed: “a handsome young soccer player Jake Graham who believes he is going insane, unable to shake the feeling of being stalked by something, by someone.”
The film takes its inspiration from a series of mysterious deaths linked by the smiley face graffiti found near the crime scenes. The victims are all killed by mysteriously being drowned and have been deemed nonaccidental. Unfortunately, the movie treats the killings as a secondary theme with Jake’s depression and body exploitation at the forefront.
The majority of the movie is just watching Ronen Rubinstein go from scene to scene shedding his clothes and acting moody as hell. Sure, Ronen Rubinstein is a handsome guy but I was there to watch a horror movie, not a peep show. He’s treated like a piece of meat. And it does absolutely nothing to further the story, absolutely nothing. In fact, it just comes across as odd. I assume his depression was part of an attempt to get us to bond with Jake and begin to care about him. If so, it did not work. In fact, when the ending came all I could think was “finally.”
The one thing I did get from the movie is that the filmmaker may have been trying to send a message about how all of the nudity is comparable to how women’s bodies are treated in the film industry, as props, by turning Jake into a piece of meat in the same way. But I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too much into it.
Talk about wasted talent, the hooded figure in the movie is none other than Crispin Glover. Why he and his character didn’t have more of a role in the film is beyond me. If you hook a star that big why not put him in the forefront?
The movie has other problems too. It kicks off brutally with the graphic killing of animals and people finding pentagrams made out of their bodies (warning to animal lovers). So, I thought I was in for a brutal, twisted movie. I was wrong. And why the animals are being sacrificed is never explained or featured in the movie again, just in the first five minutes.
Another issue is that the movie is soooo slow. Sure, we see a dark figure step out from the shadows once in a while, but that’s it. They just stand there or emerge from the shadows. The action doesn’t really kick in until the last few minutes and when we do finally get it, it’s brief. And there is not a single scare in the movie, not one. The scenes that are meant to build tension are so brief or stretched out that it is never accomplished.
The acting felt shallow and at times forced. Jake’s moodiness and depression didn’t feel authentic. Most of the characters really had no redeeming qualities which gave us no reason for to connect with them or cheer for them. In other words, we have no reason to care if they die.
There are really only two positive things that I can say about the movie are that the way the true story of the Smiley Face Murders was revealed was clever. The other is that the cinematography was pretty good.
All in all, the whole movie feels like a totally missed opportunity. The Smiley Face murders are so interesting and haven’t been explored much on the big screen. I really hope that we get a film that does them justice, but this isn’t it. The Smiley Face Killers was a slow burn that concentrated more on the main character’s body than his story, on the true story, intensity, tension, or scares. What we do get is a bunch of childish drama, pouting, and man butt.
If you really want to explore the events of the true smiley murders I recommend skipping this movie and watching the (free) award-winning documentary The Smiley Face Killers instead.