Movie Review: Smart House/Murder Mansion, “Margaux”

Nothing like watching a “smart house runs amok” thriller on the morning of your latest data breach (Thanks, Netflix) to put you in the mood.

“Margaux” is the story of a “Siri” with serious issues, and it goes like this.

A coding nerd, a stoner, a model, an influencer and a sexually ravenous college couple book a weekend in a gated, remote smart house, the highest of high tech mansions that caters to, flatters and anticipates your every need once you’ve “downloaded my app,” which is how you gain admittance.

As we’ve seen a wealthy couple tortured and butchered in the opening scene — stay away from “automatic” massage chairs — this is not going to end well.

Himbo pretty boy Drew (Jedidiah Goodacre), his last-minute plus-one, the vapid influencer not-really-girlfriend Lexi (Vanessa Morgan), “hot couple” Kayla and Devin (Phoebe Miu and Jordan Buhat) and stoner Clay (Richard Harmon) don’t suspect a thing.

Clay’s as “high as a flock of toucans…FRUIT Loops,” so at least he has an excuse.

The coding queen of this “nerd herd,” Hannah (Madison Pettis) is more leery. She’s not even on social media.

“The more you look at the coding,” she warns, “the more you realize how scary it is.”

And this house, adapting to its new weekend renters, slings a “‘K, queen?” and “balls” and other slang into her speech as she takes on the guise of “the built-in roommate who does ALL the dishes” for these Oregon coeds.

As they tour the facilities, a cover version of “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka” plays along. This place can cook, ferment, digitally 3D print anything they can imagine.

It’s been doing this for a while, now. And “this” includes lulling everybody into a false sense of security, separating this or that person from the group and killing or coming close to killing them as “she” does.”

Hannah’s the one who says “I think we should leave,” but who listens to The Smart One? There’s swimming, “Truth or Dare” and lots of drinking and what not to get into.

They never see it coming.

I like the way one of the three credited screenwriters dipped his toe in “Terminator” styled Machine Conspiracy Theory and “Alien” androids — bleeding milky white. The effects are good.

B-movie mainstay Steven C. Miller (2012’s “Silent Night,” a few recent Bruce Willis action pix) builds suspense here and there and stages a reasonably inventive murder-by-technology moment or two.

But “Margaux” is so formulaic as to forbid anything resembling a surprise. The tech depicted here is closer to “conjuring” than anything that could be mimicked, manufactured or automated today.

And several of the life-threatening situations resolve in ways that can only be described as laughable, all but letting us read the studio’s “notes” to this or that screenwriter.

“We need her around for the third act, so invent a way to do that.” One note that wasn’t passed down the line is getting a character to mention other characters have gone missing.

“Whatever happened to” is seriously late in coming.

Methodical and formulaic or not, “Margaux” manages a few notes of caution in between the screams the splatters. For instance, I won’t be giving Netflix my credit card again any time soon.

Rating:R (Violence and Gore|Drug Use|Some Sexual Material|Language)

Cast: Madison Pettis, Vanessa Morgan, Jedidiah Goodacre, Richard Harmon, Phoebe Miu and Jordan Buhat.

Credits: Directed by Steven C. Miller, scripted by Chris Beyrooty, Chris Sivertson and Nick Waters. A Paramount release.

Running time: 1:44

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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