Tell a die-hard horror-movie fan that the latest scary movie is the worst thing ever, and that fan will nod respectfully but still make plans to go see it. Horror fans must always see for themselves. All of which makes it a bit pointless to declare Smiley the year’s dullest scare flick (thus far). Ashley (Caitlin Gerard), an absurdly naïve college freshman, is warned by her drunken, prank-loving classmates to watch out for Smiley, a blank-faced killer, possibly supernatural, who pops up behind people during online video chats and stabs them to death. Smiley’s face, or lack of one, is the single creepy effect in the limited trick bag of first-time writer-director Michael Gallagher, age 24, who otherwise relies, again and again, on false-scare musical shrieks to make audiences jump. As a lark, Ashley and her mean-girl roommate (Melanie Papalia) call out to Smiley—via online text—only to watch in horror as he guts the stranger they’ve dialed up on video chat. Wracked with guilt, Ashley goes to the police, who send her packing. Is Smiley real or a prank? Is he coming after Ashley? Will horror fans care? Doubtful. Is Gallagher planning a sequel? We’re afraid to ask.
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