Michael Gallagher just wanted to tap into the zeitgeist.
The 23-year-old filmmaker–known for his popular YouTube series, Totally Sketch–is about to release his first full-length feature film, a low budge horror flick called Smiley. But what should amount to buzzy excitement leading up to the film’s launch has been eclipsed by personal attacks on Mr. Gallagher made by notorious message board 4chan and hacktivist collective Anonymous.
The reason? Mr. Gallagher painted both 4chan and Anonymous as the villains of Smiley. Obviously, this didn’t sit well with either group.
Going off the IMDB description, the film’s plot sounds like something you and your friends jokingly thought up while stoned and surfing 4chan:
After discovering an urban legend on 4chan’s /b/ board of a demented serial killer that has nothing but a carved ‘smilely’ on his face, Ashley, a mentally fragile teen, must decide whether she is going insane, or the next victim.
Variety elaborates, saying that the film follows a college freshman as she meets members of 4chan and “a series of grisly murders committed by Smiley, an urban-legend Internet ghoul from the imagination of Gallagher and Phillips, is linked to the shadowy real-life groups.”
Shockingly, 4chan and Anonymous did not take kindly to the notion that their groups are fertile breeding grounds for serial killers. /b/ may be well known as a place for the detritus of the Internet to flourish and be celebrated, but likening it to a launching pad for vicious murderers is just a little bit disingenuous.
Of course, 4chan and Anonymous rebelled in typical fashion: by doxing and threatening Mr. Gallagher.
According to Variety:
Gallagher has endured a torrent of voicemails, emails, texts, message-board posts and comments laced with death threats, insults and admonitions to spam and harass the filmmaker, his colleagues, his girlfriend and his family. Now the FBI is considering whether to investigate the bizarre, life-imitates-art situation.
Mr. Gallagher, who as a semi-famous YouTuber is no stranger to Internet negativity, said he expected some backlash, but nothing to this extent. We have a feeling the poor guy probably hangs out on Reddit much more than he does on 4chan.