×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Smiley

By-the-numbers slasher pic "Smiley" starts by borrowing the key concept of "Candyman," ends with a denouement heavily indebted to "Scream," and stuffs its middle with a dismayingly high quotient of lazy false scares.

With:
With: Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Andrew James Allen, Liza Weil, Roger Bart, Keith David, Toby Turner, Michael Traynor, Jana Winternitz, Nikki Limo, Richard Ryan, Billy St. John.

By-the-numbers slasher pic “Smiley” starts by borrowing the key concept of “Candyman,” ends with a denouement heavily indebted to “Scream,” and stuffs its middle with a dismayingly high quotient of lazy false scares. Some laughable dialogue, uneven performances and logic gaps big enough to drive a truck through complete this uninspired “urban legend” horror-thriller set in a milieu of college students and naughty online chatrooms. First feature for helmer/co-scenarist Michael Gallagher looks to scare up minor returns when it opens on 28 AMC screens Oct. 12, raising awareness toward better results in VOD.

Substituting laptops for “Candyman’s” mirrors, “Smiley” here refers to a grotesque, mythic figure with sewn-shut eyes and a knife-exaggerated grin who supposedly materializes when users of a particular website (“Hide and Go Chat”) type a certain message three times. At which point, the stranger they’ve been chatting or sexting with gets a surprise visitor and a most unpleasant death.

Just informed of this phenomenon is college newbie Ashley (Caitlin Gerard), a naive local girl who seems underprepared for independent life, having suffered some recent anxiety crisis. Nonetheless, she’s thrown into campus social life by housemate Proxy (Melanie Papalia), a worldly party girl who wastes little time yanking Ashley to a wild-side “anonymous” shindig where, as on the fatal website, invitees are strangers. There they meet Zane (Andrew James Allen), snarky ringleader of a bunch of prank-inclined mean boys, and picked-on nice guy Binder (Shane Dawson), who sparks with Ashley.

Meanwhile, the probably-fictional-but-maybe-not Smiley continues to waste cybertourists. Soon Ashley is seemingly being stalked by Mr. S in her waking hours and nightmares, which she now has trouble separating. She finally goes to the police, but they (or rather vet thesp Keith David) think she’s being pranked, particularly as no bodies have been discovered and the chatroom videos are suddenly nowhere to be found. “How can you erase everything over the whole Internet?” Ashley cries. “You can’t … if you’re human,” Proxy intones, in one of numerous tin-eared script passages.

Despite the pic’s R rating, the mayhem here is neither especially gory nor suspenseful, with not much happening for a long stretch beyond myriad false-alarm moments until the last 10 minutes or so. Further padding is provided by Professor Clayton (Roger Bart), whose class on reason and ethics allows pretentious exchanges on the nature of evil, etc. Bart tries to inject some sly humor, but despite helmer Gallagher’s prior credits in sketch comedy and the presence of some YouTube comedy ministars (Dawson, Toby Turner), most of “Smiley’s” laughs are of the unintentional variety.

Packaging is adequate, though limited locations sometimes underline budgetary limits.

Smiley

Production: A Fever Prods./AMC Independent release of a Fever presentation in association with Level 10 Films. Produced by Michael Wormser, Michael Gallagher. Executive producers, Elaine Gallagher, Michael Gallagher, Glasgow Phillips. Directed by Michael Gallagher. Screenplay, Glasgow Phillips, Gallagher, from a story by Ezra Cooperstein, Phillips.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Nicola Marsh; editor, Zach Anderson; music, Dave Porter; music supervisor, Jacob Nathan; production designer, Alec Contestabile; art director, Breanna Wing; set decorator, Stephanie Wagner; costume designer, Adrienne Young; sound, Mary Jo Devenney; sound designer/re-recording mixer, Cody Peterson; assistant director, Lee Andrews; casting, Lisa Essary. Reviewed online, San Francisco, Oct. 1, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Andrew James Allen, Liza Weil, Roger Bart, Keith David, Toby Turner, Michael Traynor, Jana Winternitz, Nikki Limo, Richard Ryan, Billy St. John.

More Film

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala

    Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala: Mariah Carey, Kendall Jenner and Tiffany Trump

    Kendall Jenner caused a commotion when she arrived. Tiffany Trump went unrecognized until a member of the press pointed her out as she made her way down the carpet. And Mariah Carey flew in to perform a couple of songs. Welcome to this year’s AmfAR Gala Cannes, the AIDS organization’s annual — and largest — [...]

  • 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo' Review: Abdellatif

    Cannes Film Review: 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo'

    A simple but somehow atypical shot opens Abdellatif Kechiche’s new film: a serene closeup of a young woman’s face, as seen through the camera lens of Amir, a budding photographer still finding his perspective. Her expression is ambiguously tranquil, her long hair lightly rustled by a humid breeze, all softly lit by a sinking afternoon [...]

  • Crown Vic

    Thomas Jane's Police Thriller 'Crown Vic' Sells to Screen Media (EXCLUSIVE)

    Screen Media has bought North American rights to writer-director Joel Souza’s police crime-thriller “Crown Vic,” starring Thomas Jane and Luke Kleintank. The distributor closed terms during the Cannes Film Festival amid a competitive bidding situation between seven other suitors. Screen Media plans to release the pic this fall. “Crown Vic” premiered in April at the [...]

  • Colleen Bell

    Colleen Bell Replaces Amy Lemisch as California Film Commission Director

    Veteran entertainment executive and ambassador Colleen Bell will replace Amy Lemisch as director of the California Film Commission. Bell, who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, has worked as a consultant since 2017. She was the U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 2014 to 2017. She held several positions at Bell-Phillip Television Productions, including [...]

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content