Check out the latest entry in the smart home horror subgenre.

On the tracks of Tenuous (a couple is taken hostage by the malicious security system of their rented accommodation), Tau (a captive uses artificial intelligence to escape from an evil scientist’s lair), and dark cloud (automated rehab center turns deadly), VOD release Margaux is the latest example of a burgeoning cinematic subgenre that could best be described as “smart home horror.”

In Margaux, the titular AI is set up in what initially appears to be any tech-savvy vacationer’s dream getaway. But after torturing a poor schmuck (Lochlyn Munro) in an open cold that’s likely to put you off using a massage chair again, it’s clear that the only five-star rating that should be given to this property is in psychopathy.

Naturally, the next guests who will soon regret accepting the terms and conditions without reading a word – a mismatched group of college graduates assembled from various YA dramas such as Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrinaand The 100 – are highly impressed with all the advanced techno-sorcery on offer. From the wall of virtual selfies that adorns the house’s giant sliding doors, to custom avatars, to the party-starting bartender tentacles that emerge from luxury kitchen counters, this home has it all.

Each room is custom-designed to the wishes of its occupant, 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) are treated to Valentine’s Day heaven. In a clever display of the movie’s playfulness, 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.

The house’s most notable feature, however, is the “nano-hydrophobic” 3D printing technology that allows its warped virtual assistant (voiced by Susan Bennett, aka the original Siri) to conjure up realistic carbon copies of the guests. This, of course, results in a searing gay panic when the AI ​​programs the liquified versions of the party’s two biggest brothers to start kissing. Margaux’s antics probably start more mischievous than murderous. From the start, her worst offense is her fun and offbeat attempts to get down with the kids using lingo like “OK queen” and “another gentleman’s sister”.

In effect, Margaux keeps the audience waiting for things to go wrong. Although a Jaws the tribute in the outdoor pool threatens to drown out smashing influencer Lexi (Vanessa Morgan), the sextet is still in one piece halfway through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The gang self-proclaimed as “the Nerd Herd” is a bit more appealing than the usual stereotypes designed to be weeded out one by one.

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

Margaret, anyone?Paramount Pictures

However, Margaux finally begins to reward viewers’ patience as it transitions from a meandering hideout movie to a heartbreaking horror-comedy. While he’s perhaps best known for facilitating Bruce Willis’ descent into DVD hell with stereotypical actors like First murder and Marauders, director Steven C. Miller has a solid understanding of genre conventions. There are definite echoes of horny teenage slashers of the early 80s in how the AI ​​first punishes those who dare to have sex.

Miller also plays with audience expectations, putting on plenty of entertaining simulations involving everything from a standard hand in the bunghole to an exercise bike that takes the idea of ​​a “killer workout” almost literally. That’s a shame Margaux bypassed cinemas because these are the kind of scenes worth experiencing among the screams and laughter of a crowded Friday night screening.

Admittedly, some of that laughter could easily be directed at the CGI that permeates the twisty, goo-covered finale. Although the house itself is an impressive creation that sits somewhere between the envious pages of Architectural Summary and the dystopian conceptions of black mirrorthe robots inside have not evolved much compared to those of smart homethe 1999 Disney Channel film about a computerized house that turns on its inhabitants.

Jedidiah Goodacre tests the retinal scan at the house of horrors. Paramount Pictures

Still, the majority of the laughs are intentional, with Lexi’s obsession and Margaux’s shadow taking the lion’s share. Sure, the Gen Z-er narcissistic trope is an easy target, but the tendency to prioritize the online brand over real life is nonetheless always amusing: “I’m a brand ambassador for these extensions of hair,” Lexi moaned after a knife fell into a mustache severing her head.

The killer AI, meanwhile, gets more entertaining the bittier it gets. “There really isn’t much for you,” she tells Drew (Jedidiah Goodacre), the romantically bland lead, in one of many fabulously succinct character assassinations. The storyline is much more witty than you might imagine from a starless, on-demand affair co-written by a small gamer of Love glory and beauty.

Margaux exceeds all the low expectations that still often come with a VOD release. It might not have anything particularly insightful to say about society’s overreliance on technology, but with a few inventive kills, a self-aware sense of humor, and a cast, you don’t want to. not necessarily die hideous deaths, Margaux is a app-goes-rogue fun horror.

Unlike its villain, this film doesn’t appear to be algorithm driven.

Margaux is available digitally on September 9.