When a person like me hears “was it as bad as Smiley?” in regards to something as bad as The Secret Village, you can count down from two before I proceed to find Smiley streaming on Amazon Prime to see just how rough a watch will be.
And then I question everything I know about my taste level when I finish and say, “you know, that really wasn’t that bad.”
Quick Plot: A little girl introduces her babysitter to a “Skype for strangers” chat site called The Den--
Oops. Wrong movie. This one’s called Hide & Chat and has the exciting twist that if you type “I did it for the lulz” three times, a masked man with a smiley face burlap mask will appear and brutally murder the stranger on the other side of your webcam. Naturally, the shocked babysitter goes home to immediately hop on Hide & Chat, befriend a stranger, and be fatally lulzed.
We next meet Ashley, an innocent college freshman moving in with her harder partying pal Elizabeth--
Wait. That’s not it. Though she may indeed be played by The Den’s Melanie Papalia, Ashley’s roommate is named Proxy. Because that’s apparently a thing (as are the names Binder, Crash, Kells, and Zane).
Proxy is all about corrupting the willing Ashley, introducing her to pot, alcohol, and group of fellow college students who enjoy web pranks. It doesn’t take long for the obnoxious gang of millenials to spruce up a typical keg party with an invitation to Smiley.
Ashley is horrified by the tale so naturally, her and Proxy go home and triple lulz a stranger together to prove that it’s real. When she tries to report the events, Ashely receives the typical dubious stares from the police officers. It doesn’t help when we discover she’s bipolar and not currently on medication.
What follows is many a dream upon dream upon dream sequence, as well as a few red herrings and a random performance by Broadway’s Roger Bart as a whiskey happy professor. Directed by newcomer Michael J. Gallagher, Smiley’s biggest problem lies in its tonal confusion. Ashley’s troubles seem to be taken seriously, but the movie as a whole can’t seem to decide if there’s genuine tragedy in these internet horrors.
Filing under “other things this film has in common with The Den,” Smiley opens with a shockingly effective jump scare
While we’re on the “things this has in common with The Den,” let’s give a hand to the incredibly likable Caitlin Gerard, who manages to be extremely sympathetic in the lead role, even when the movie doesn’t quite know how to maximize her talents
I actually dug the twist ending, but when you start to think back to some of the logic of it, I don’t know that it holds up
You don’t get to be king of the internet assholes without making a few enemies (and apparently, a lot of shitty mixed drinks)
Computer geniuses prefer to be called nerds
Dungeonmasters usually don’t get the princess
I did not do it for the lutz
I did not do it for the lutz
Instead, I did it for the lulz
Pneumonic Device For Life
Look, there’s no shame in admitting that like 95% of the general population, you can never remember which one is Keith David and which one is David Keith. Well folks, I have the key to never mixing this up again, providing you were a fan of Six Feet Under. It goes something like this:
David & Keith were a couple.
This is David.
This is Keith.
This is David Keith.
This is Keith David.
Guys, I’ve seen worse horror movies than Smiley. Wayyyyyyyy worse movies. I realize that isn’t a ringing endorsement, but I guess I was just expecting something far less watchable based on word of mouth. It has plenty of dopey moments, but Gerard makes for a sympathetic lead and the internet twist on Candyma/Bloody Mary lore has its own appeal. I’m not telling anybody to invest in a watch, but it’s streaming on Amazon Prime and well, it’s one way to pass the time.