Smiley Face Killers (2020) has bogeymen. They have lived inside your thoughts and expectations since you were small. They lingered; biding time in the corners, outside the light. They will hide in a closet, shadow you on your bike; force you to recall your view in the world as a child-- open to suggestion, independent of thought yet dependent on others to help protect you.
We wear false faces. The symmetry of a young jock's visage veils the disruption his bipolar disorder wreaks. Smiley Face Killers points to this time: We mask and we separate, failing to distinguish ourselves from another. The scenario proliferates the confusion of people who lack a simpatico between interior and exterior, indicating psychic crisis. The voice inside us is suggestive, yet strong, saying now is the time to drown yourself and die.
As the dissonance between FACE/MASK and interior widens, the crisis grows. Encompassing a social breakdown, the leaders are pulled inward, into their doubts, their psychological weaknesses and into their solitude, away from others. The movie comments on how what nudged at us in our childhood bedrooms-- (is he under my bed waiting to kill me? Does a monster live in my closet? Will I soon be brutally murdered?) grows inside us all the while. Our dis-ease is progressive and chronic, having caused pathology to our organs as they developed.
As in Cosmatos' Mandy (2017) -- the mask of the face is the illusion of containment. The borders of the face of Mandy leak when she is consumed and destroyed by the cult leader. The horror is the reveal of the lack of distinction and autonomy that one human actually has from another. The lie is that we control our thoughts, our bodies, ourselves. Our wants can infect and even attract others to overtake us.
Smiley Face Killers is mythical in its fears while specific in its placement and time. Timeless terrors are grounded in contemporary social isolation (technical as well as medical.) Like Mandy, it is a film about a specific year. Mandy's pointed recall of 1983 is a parallel to Smiley Face Killers' magnification of psychic ills through grounding it in a modern plague.
Our dis-ease is multiplied and vague. It is pandemic. This disease is both the soil and the dirt along the grave; it breeds mental illness and suspicion and weakens our organs to keep us from noticing we are the target of many.. in turn, our destruction serves the earth and nourishes the few who live in the outlines, once scared children themselves, now vanquishing the monster inside us all, victorious at last.
In the logic of Smiley Face Killers the face is called Galiel. He must be killed. It is the name of the mask that pretends to be a face.