Tonight I had the unpleasant experience of sitting through Michael Gallagher’s, Smiley. I find myself having to sit through too many bad, horror films these days and Smiley will be added to my 2012 shit-list. I do not find any joy in doing this, I am not here to take a dump on the genre, but there has been nothing of late that I have really found myself enjoying, as far as horror films go. Hey, at least Sinister is suppose to be good, right?
Smiley’s premise should have been a warning shot for how inane it was going to be. I didn’t listen, I was too caught up in the absurdity of the killer that I figured all the other stuff would work itself out, but it didn’t. You want to know what the film is about? Ok, brace yourself.
There is an urban legend that if you are in a video chat with someone, and you type “I did it for the lulz” three times, Smiley will appear and kill the person you sent the message to. Have you gone and closed your browser yet? No? Well, there’s more! Ashley (Caitlin Gerard), who just moved into college, witnesses a killing that a few party-goers pull on someone in a version of Chat Roulette. She gets nervous and tells herself that it is not real, but curiosity overtakes her and she tries it out with her roommate. Well, wouldn’t you know that they go and kill some innocent person. Ashley then spends the majority of the film trying to wash the guilt away like Lady Macbeth but in the end, you can’t escape Smiley (or boredom).
So, there is a lot wrong with Smiley in more ways than just the premise. The actual idea of the film could have been pulled off if it was self-referential or fully absurd, but it’s not. Smiley believes in itself and takes its material seriously. This is a shame because the first six minutes are good and it feels like the film is headed in a goofy, yet enjoyable direction (maybe something similar to Scream). Once we are introduced to Ashley, the film becomes plagued with awkward performances and lame attempts to try and define the internet culture. The first party that Ashley goes to with her roommate is a collection of 4chan users. These people are all good-looking and self-proclaimed trolls. First off, 4chan users would not “meet up” and I guarantee that they would not look like the kids there. They would not “LULZ” at every corner and their definition of 4chan sounds like something a little kid would say. At one point, the “leader” of the “trolls” says, “You don’t become the king of internet trolls without making a few enemies.” This type of dialogue is pathetic in that it is trying very hard to define an internet culture in the most simplistic way possible. Let’s also sigh at The Social Network reference. I’m sorry, Mr. Fincher.
The film’s main message is to detail why the internet is dangerous and why trolling is a way to get someone killed. It feels like an idea that was from the late 90s and early 00s. Any time a film goes off on the “danger” of the internet, I have to roll my eyes. That kind of thinking comes from people who can’t grasp technology and see the internet as a way for evil people to use their evil power, but that exists everywhere in everything. That type of thinking is similar to people teaching abstinence classes, where the only option is to avoid the issue and not educate. It’s ludicrous that Jesse Bartel, a 23 year old male, is going to be awakened to the evils of the internet from a film called Smiley. I know the internet is awful! Just go to YouTube, select any video, and look at the comments section. Done.
The biggest offense? Smiley starts off strong and then it spends about another hour and twenty minutes featuring only the girl as she thinks she is being watched by Smiley. Smiley only has a total screen time of ABOUT three minutes and maybe it’s just me, but having a killer with little screentime makes for a boring flick. Smiley has barely any gore, scares, or enjoyable moments. It feels pointless, and the ending brings home the running narrative of the danger of the internet that makes you want to paint the walls with your brain.
My advice to you is that when Smiley comes out on October 11th, please avoid it and save your money for something that has potential. Spend it on V/H/S/ or REC: 3 – Genesis; I didn’t even like those films, but it would at least be better than Smiley. Maybe you really want to see a film that tries to connect with the underbelly of the internet culture, and maybe you really do want to watch a girl walk around for an hour and a half. To those of you who consider this film, I say, “Good day, sir!”