is ann hale all smiles?…
Smiley, released on VOD this week, is the full feature directorial debut of 24 year old Michael J. Gallagher. The film is about an internet killer named Smiley (Michael Traynor) who appears when he is called upon in video chats on the internet. You pick someone random to video chat with and type in the phrase “I did it for the lulz” three times. Smiley will then appear behind the person you’re chatting with and kill them. Now, why do they call him Smiley, you ask? Well, because he sewed his eyes shut and carved a giant smile into his face.
Ashley (Caitlin Gerard), a freshman in college, makes some new and questionable friends at a party who show her the “I did it for the lulz” trick. At home, she and her roommate, Proxy (Melanie Papalia), test it out a few times. When they find that Smiley does appear, they finally believe the story is true. Now Ashley is paranoid that Smiley is coming to get her.
Let’s go ahead and look at why this movie is awful. First off, if Smiley sewed his eyes shut and carved that smile onto his face, he would still have a nose or some resemblance of a face. Instead, it’s this smooth blank canvas with a giant “Shit Happens” smile cut into it.
Second, while I understand Gallagher’s attempt to make his horror up to date with trends with his video chat killer, the whole call upon someone three times thing is in no way original. Does anyone remember Beetlejuice or Candyman? Let’s not forget that those two films were very successful, something I do not see Smiley being. In fact, the only part of this movie I see potentially having any success is the lead actress, Caitlin Gerard. She’s cute in a WB sort of way. I might expect to see her on a cheesy teenage vampire show soon. Her roommate’s name, Proxy, is no doubt their attempt at an ironic internet name as a proxy website will allow you to surf the web while protecting your identity. What an awful attempt at being clever.
Proxy is a Paris Hilton rip off, the “hot” guys are anything but, and their celebrity cameos are disappointing. They brought in Roger Bart, the gay friend in The Stepford Wives and Stuart, the guy you think is sweet but turns out to be a total psycho in Hostel II and Liza Weil, whom you probably wouldn’t recognize unless you watched Gilmore Girls. Their only saving grace is the appearance of Keith David. If he had a larger role, this film might have been salvageable.
Now, one might argue that a 24 year old with a small budget couldn’t make much better. That excuse is invalid. Oren Peli, while older than 24, made Paranormal Activity with the small budget of $15,000 and it became a hit horror film series. At the young age of 26, John Carpenter directed the film Dark Star which earned him major recognition as he went on to direct one of the biggest horror films in the genre’s history: Halloween.
To put simply, the jokes fall flat, the scares are…predictable at best and the story itself is nothing to smile about. Spare yourself an hour and a half of disappointment and rent Candyman instead.