Review: ‘Margaux’ Proves Smart Thrillers Don’t Have to Be Dumb

Meet the latest entry in the smart home horror subgenre.

Following in the footsteps of Held (a couple is held hostage by the malevolent security system of their rental home), Tau (a captive uses artificial intelligence to escape from an evil scientist’s lair), and Dark cloud (an automated rehab facility turns deadly), VOD release Margaux is the latest example of a burgeoning film subgenre that could best be described as “smart home horror.”

In Margaux, the titular AI is ensconced in what initially appears to be every tech-savvy tourist’s dream getaway. But after torturing a poor asshole (Lochlyn Munro) in a cold, open place that will probably dissuade him from using a massage chair ever again, it’s clear that the only five-star rating that should be given to this property is in psychopathy. .

Understandably, the next guests who will soon regret agreeing to the terms and conditions without reading a word: a ragtag group of college graduates gathered from various YA dramas like Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of SabrinaY the 100 — are very impressed by all the advanced technology on offer. From the virtual selfie wall that adorns the home’s giant sliding doors to custom avatars and bartender tentacles that get the party started and emerge from the luxury kitchen countertops, this home has it all.

Each bedroom is tailored to the wishes of its occupants, based on their individual activity on social media. Richard Harmon’s stoner Clay gets an endless supply of weed, while kinky couple Kayla (Phoebe Miu) and Dev (Jordan Buhat) enjoy Valentine’s heaven. In a clever display of the movie’s fun, Madison Pettis’ off-grid programmer Hannah (“the more you look at the code, the more you realize how scary it is”) is given just a bed and four white walls.

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The house’s most notable feature, however, is “nanohydrophobic” 3D printing technology that allows its deformed virtual assistant (voiced by Susan Bennett, aka the original Siri) to conjure up realistic carbon copies of guests. . This, of course, results in a mind-blowing gay panic as the AI ​​programs the liquefied versions of the two older brothers at the party to start kissing. Margaux’s antics undoubtedly start out more mischievous than murderous. At first, her worst offense is her funny and outlandish attempts to get along with children using slang like “OK, queen” and “another lord’s sister”.

Indeed, Margaux keeps the audience waiting for things to go wrong. Although a jaws The tribute in the outdoor pool threatens to drown the influential Lexi (Vanessa Morgan), the sextet is still in one piece at the halfway point. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The self-described “herd of nerds” gang is a bit more appealing than the usual stereotypes designed to be eliminated one by one.

However, there is little chemistry between them. It is never clear how such disparate individuals would have found common ground in the first place. Aside from Clay (the Shaggy lookalike who is eager to develop a Their-esque relationship with a disembodied voice) and mean girl Lexi, the group is even more of a blank canvas than Hannah’s room.

Margaret, anyone?Paramount Pictures

Nevertheless, Margaux it eventually begins to reward viewers’ patience as it turns from a meandering flick to a raunchy horror comedy. While perhaps best known for facilitating Bruce Willis’s descent into direct-to-DVD hell with formulaic action movies like First murder Y marauders, director Steven C. Miller has a solid understanding of genre conventions. There are definite echoes of the horny teen slashers of the early ’80s in the way the AI ​​first punishes those who dare to have sex.

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Miller also plays with audience expectations, creating numerous entertaining fakes involving everything from the standard hand in the drain to a stationary bike that almost takes the idea of ​​a “killer exercise” literally. It’s a shame Margaux has bypassed theaters, as these are the kind of scenes that deserve to be experienced in between the whoops and giggles of a jam-packed Friday night show.

Admittedly, some of that laughter could easily be directed towards the CGI that permeates the twisted, goo-covered ending. Although the house itself is a stunning creation that sits somewhere between the envy-inducing pages of architectural compendium and the dystopian designs of black mirrorthe robots inside have not advanced much with respect to those of Smart Housethe 1999 Disney Channel movie about a computerized home that turns on its inhabitants.

Jedidiah Goodacre tests the House of Horrors retina scan. Paramount Pictures

Still, most of the laughs are intentional, with Lexi’s self-obsession and Margaux’s shadow-casting providing the lion’s share. Sure, the narcissistic Gen Z-er trope is an easy target, but the tendency to prioritize online branding over real life is nonetheless constantly amusing: “I’m a brand ambassador for those hair extensions,” he says. Lexi complains after a knife goes into a whisker to cut off his head.

Meanwhile, the killer AI gets more entertaining the bitchier it gets. “There really isn’t much for you,” he tells bland romantic lead Drew (Jedidiah Goodacre) in one of many fabulously succinct character kills. The script is much more inventive than you might imagine for a starless on-demand affair co-written by a supporting actor from The bold and the pretty.

Margaux It exceeds any low expectations that often come with a VOD release. It may not have anything particularly insightful to say about society’s overreliance on technology, but with some inventive deaths, a self-aware sense of humor, and a cast that doesn’t necessarily want to die horribly, Margaux is a fun rogue horror app.

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Unlike its villain, this movie doesn’t seem to be driven by an algorithm.

Margaux is available digitally on September 9.

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