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Smiley (2012)

Director: Michael J. Gallagher
Starring:  Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Andrew James Allen, Roger Bart, Keith David
Rated R 90 min.
Buy SMILEY at Amazon

Shaken by her mother’s untimely death, an emotionally fragile young woman named Ashley (Caitlyn Gerard) seeks a new start by going off to college. She gets more than she bargained for when she meets a crew of computer hackers, geeks, and trolls who introduce her to “Smiley.” Essentially an updated version of the “Bloody Mary” legend, typing “I did it for the lulz” three times in a chat room will summon a hulking, smiley faced monster who will kill the other person in the chat. So, of course, she tries it and somebody turns up dead. Or do they? Ashley must decide if someone is playing a prank, is she’s going bonkers, or if there really is a killer on the loose.

I’m not really sure what the director was going for here. At times SMILEY plays like an extended riff on the SCREAM franchise, and at others it seems like one big in-joke involving the gaggle of “internet celebrities” filling out the cast. In any case, the movie has a strange and spastic feel to it, never knowing whether it wants to be a serious horror film or a seriously overlong Youtube skit. With bad acting, bad writing, and incredibly obnoxious characters, the movie is a chore to sit through. Caitlyn Gerard gives a twitchy, jumpy performance that is jarring for all the wrong reasons. I can't fault her for that, because I have to assume director Michael Gallagher wanted it that way. It also has a twist ending that makes the entire experience nothing more than a waste of time. Keith David is wasted in small role as a useless cop, so don’t get your hopes up when you see him onscreen. The most surprising thing about the movie is that it was branded with an “R” rating. There’s very little blood and no sex or nudity, just a few “F” bombs here and there. If you’re looking for horror, you won’t find it anywhere in SMILEY. 1.5 out of 5