Smiley Face Killers is the type of horror/thriller movie that will leave you wondering if it even had a message to share with viewers. However, it did manage to feature some exciting moments.
Full disclosure, I decided to watch Smiley Face Killers because it’s got Ronen Rubenstein (9-1-1: Lone Star) as the lead and Crispin Glover as a psychotic murderer. The critic in me had a whole lot of issues while watching this film. But as a casual viewer, I think there are people who will enjoy the gore, nudity (I’ll get to that in a bit), and overall bleakness.
As the name states, this film uses the Smiley Face Killers theory involving the mysterious deaths of young men that were found drowned. From director Tim Hunter and writer Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho), I was expecting some kind of insight into the Smiley Face Killers gang. I wouldn’t have minded a well-written and entirely fictional explanation behind the murders why the gang decided to go after college soccer player Jake Graham (Rubinstein). This film left me with a lot of questions.
I liked Rubinstein as Jake, though. I think Rubinstein did a good job playing a character dealing with certain mental issues. He made me feel sorry for Jake. The role was also quite different from what we have seen from Rubinstein on 9-1-1: Lone Star and in the film No Escape. He’s got range, y’all. He just needs some good material to really deliver.
As for the nudity aspect, it’s clear Rubinstein’s not a shy person. You’ll get to see his naked backside a whole lot. Jake also shared intimate scenes with Mia Serafino‘s Keren. Rubinstein fans are going to have a field day with all of the footage. In my opinion, the director knew Rubinstein’s got a very good-looking body and made the most of it in the 1 hour 36 minutes runtime.
Anyway, coming to the horror/thriller parts in Smiley Face Killers, I enjoyed all of the gore. And Glover using a hammer to kill someone? Yes! Give me more of that! And the scenes showing Glover sneaking around Jake’s house were chilling. This is an R-rated flick. So, be warned.
I do have to say the script not leaning more into Jake’s cognitive condition and whether or not the killers were real was a missed opportunity, in my opinion. I think there was a lot that could have been done with such a narrative. Seeing his condition play a role in separating him from his support group was sad.
The entire movie’s quite bleak, and as I mentioned, it left me wondering about what it was trying to say. What’s the main narrative message here? I don’t know.
If you want to support Rubinstein as a fan and are into a horror movie with an unhappy ending, you should consider checking it out. Even though I have shared my issues with this film, it did deliver some nice moments which were underlined by a complimentary score.
Distributed by Lionsgate, Smiley Face Killers is currently available for rent or purchase (released December 4, 2020).
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Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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