Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Smiley: Chatting Kills
would college kids want to hang around in internet chat rooms when they can go
out drinking and carousing? Nonetheless,
that is what they do in a new horror movie wearing both its 1980’s nostalgia
and a distrust of the digital culture on its sleeve. An internet boogeyman is preying on online
chatters, including perhaps a coed with a history of mental breakdowns, who
might become his next victim in Michael J. Gallagher’s Smiley (trailer
today in New York.
is the online answer to Candyman.
Supposedly, he can be invoked by typing the latest bit of internet crapspeak,
“it was all just for lulz,” three times.
He then appears behind your chat partner to slit their throats. Creepy online trolls are posting and commenting
on a raft of dodgy videos supposedly capturing the urban legend at work, but
the authorities consider them pranks.
is introduced to the Smiley phenomenon when her trampy roommate Proxy drags her
to an anonymous chat room meet-up kegger.
Still recovering from her mother’s death, Ashley is a bit alarmed by the
apparent murders. The drugs she is
slipped do not help much either. To
reassure her, Proxy suggests they call out Smiley in a random chat. Of course, he duly appears to do what he
does. Wracked with guilt, Ashley fears
she has attracted Smiley’s personal attention and might just wind up as one of
his next victims, lulz or no lulz.
dead teenager movies go, Smiley is pretty
standard stuff, indiscriminately ripping off scores of previous horror
franchises. However, every now and then
it shows a flash of genuine inspiration, even referencing the Anonymous-Hactivist
movement in a decidedly unflattering way that would be spoilery to explain.
Award-winning Roger Bart also adds an intriguing element as Professor Clayton,
a faculty burn-out teaching the required “Logic and Ethics” course to the
incoming skulls full of mush. Tellingly
though, Clayton offers plenty of instruction in the former, but not much by way
of the latter. A leering logical
positivist, he is quite a commentary on contemporary academia, played with
genre appropriate flair by Bart.
surprisingly, the kids are a rather dull, colorless lot. To be fair, Caitlin Gerard does a pretty credible
job falling to pieces as Ashley, but it is impossible to understand why she
hangs with such an obnoxious crowd.
Frustratingly, the always cool Keith David (narrator of Ken Burns’ Jazz) is criminally wasted as the lazy
copper who thinks it is all a joke.
It must be freely admitted Smiley ends pretty strong.
Whether it was intended as a searing indictment of the nihilism
permeating hipster culture and the intelligentsia, it could certainly be
interpreted as such. That definitely
sets it apart from the pack. It is not
exactly what you would call spectacular, but it has moments of something. For voracious horror fans, Smiley opens today (10/12) in New York
at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Horror Movies, Keith David