Review: In Margaux, a Smart Home Turns Predictably Deadly

Full confession: the only reason I watched this movie was because I thought it was from France. Turns out, the new film from director Steven C. Miller (First Kill, Line of Duty), Margaux, is in no way French. Instead, it’s an insipid horror film about a group of college seniors who were inseparable when they were younger and have drifted apart. In an effort to reconnect, they rent a smart house for a weekend of partying, bonding and hopefully recapturing a bit of that freshman-year vibe that made them so close in the first place. The AI that runs the house is named Margaux (voiced by Susan Bennett), and it not only caters to their every need, but it also learns as much as it can about each person on the trip so it can anticipate their needs and relate to them as a friend. If it sounds creepy, sit tight.

If the film has a central character, it’s probably Hannah (Madison Pettis), who seems less interested in drinking and getting high and more in staring longingly at Drew (Jedidiah Goodacre), whom she used to have a crush on, and she’s hoping to finally act on her feelings during this trip. But Drew’s relatively new girlfriend, Lexi (Vanessa Morgan), invites herself on the outing, putting the kibosh on that idea. It doesn’t help that she’s a fledgling social media darling, who is constantly posting photos and video of the weekend, and finds it a little too easy to be insulting and off putting at every turn. Also on the trip are couple Kayla (Phoebe Miu) and Devon (Joran Bubat), and the only other single person on the trip, Clay (Richard Harmon), the group’s resident pothead.

It doesn’t take long for Margaux’s true nature to poke through, and she begins to cause vaguely threatening things to happen around the house, which eventually turn into outright attempts at murdering the guests. In addition to having the whole house wired so that Margaux effectively sees and controls everything, the place is also one giant 3-D printer and can generate just about anything, including people that it can then inject with nanobots to give them life and then take everything she’s learned about the guests and use that to create personalities in the copies. It sounds ridiculous because it is, but it’s also very amusing because when one of these copies gets killed, they turn into a pile of white goo.

The problems with Margaux are legion, but like most mediocre horror films, the biggest issues is that, aside from Hannah, I hated all the characters in this movie, so when they started getting knocked off, it didn’t phase me in the slightest. Also, while I have no real issue believing that a smart house could one day cause its user’s death, what goes on in Margaux is absurd to the point of being laughable. And when dead people start coming back as copies, I gave up on this dopey little attempt at blending sci-fi and horror that somehow manages to fail at both in spectacular fashion. The actors are all attractive, and the house is breathtaking; I think I worried more about the house getting trashed than any character dying.

Strangely, the film opens with a sequence involving Margaux killing the couple who stayed at the house before the college kids, so even the suspense of wondering if Margaux will go bad is erased. We know it’s going to happen, so the film becomes a lethargic waiting game with no real pay off, tension or emotional connection to anyone. Now I really wish the French has made this clunker.

The film is now available on most digital platforms.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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