The new face of fear
Writers: Michael J Gallagher, Ezra Cooperstein
Director: Michael J Gallagher
Smiley is an attempt to update the old ‘Bloody Mary’ story for the internet generation. The idea is that if you’re having a video chat with a stranger and type ‘I did it for the lulz’ three times, Smiley will turn up behind that person and kill them. It’s not a bad idea and I was hoping for something atmospheric with a touch of J-horror style technophobia.
Oh boy was I wrong.
The film starts with a five minute infodump prequel. Then we get to the main story with sweet, innocent college student Ashley (Caitlin Gerard) moving in with fun loving Proxy (a mumbling Melanie Papalia). Proxy takes Ashley to a party full of the sort of guys who give nerds a bad name… then wakes the next morning to find that one of them has been killed, possibly by Smiley. Ashley and Proxy decide to prove Smiley is not real by the not-so-smart method of trying it out. Over the next few days Smiley kills off various jerks from the party and Ashley begins to believe he’s coming for her. Is she in danger, or is she losing her mind?
That still has potential as a techno-slasher, unfortunately the implementation is dreadful. Ashley wanders between jump scares whilst Professor Clayton (Roger Bart) gives a few lectures to explain basic science to the viewer. There’s no build up of tension, no narrative drive and plenty of infodumps. It isn’t filmed completely handheld (thank goodness) but some scenes get the shaky treatment for no obvious reason. Even the ending is one big infodump with a twist which is both nonsensical and predictable.
Gallagher has an established reputation for comedy sketch material on the internet. If he’d brought an element of humour to Smiley instead of playing it straight it might have worked. Unfortunately neither the film is neither atmospheric nor interesting enough to take seriously.
Smiley is a missed opportunity. It’s a tedious film full of non-scary jump scares, unpleasant people and clumsy storytelling.