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‘Margaux’ (review)

In Margaux, a smart home turns into a nightmare for a group of college friends who are spending one last bonding weekend together before graduation thrusts them into the unknown of adulthood.

While the “last weekend” set up is the staple food of the group horror flick (And Then There Was None (1945) all the way to current offerings like Host (2020)) don’t let that fool you into think it’s a boring concept.

While the movie sticks to the familiar trope of “ One Down, (insert number of people here), To Go”, the movie itself has enough originality to push it past the mundane. First of all, none of the core group are ridiculous caricatures of what is usually involved in the horror group dynamic.

Sure, there are ghosts of these figures, but not enough to make them seem overly cartoony. There isn’t the quintessential archetypes like: the whore, the athlete, the scholar, the fool, and the virgin, instead, there is the essence of all within each member of the friend group that gives it a certain refreshing depth.

These friends are bound together from a single period of time (Freshman Year) and a single commonality (STEM kids) that sets the stage for their connection, and while that connection is mentioned a few times throughout the movie, it isn’t used to manipulate the audience into caring about the characters as its sole purpose.

For all intents and purposes, it is merely the glue that explains why this last weekend is so important to each of them.

The only real overtly stereotypical character, the Fool so to speak (and it isn’t in the realm of annoying luckily), Clay (Richard Harmon; The Killing, The 100), at first comes off as the most basic of Stoner Dude, but he does have a very sweet smartness to him that doesn’t make him feel like the traditional throwaway character. In fact, it is his buzzed-to-hide-his-loneliness personality that annoys the house to no end and provides a dark humor that is, oftentimes, excluded from traditional horror. Clay loves his weed, but it’s obvious that his “puff-puff-no-pass” hides a deep sadness and longing for a romantic partner that lies just on the surface.

While the character of “The Fool” doesn’t always elicit a strong emotion when they are being stalked and murdered because of a general shallowness of that archetype, Harmon’s Clay does manage to achieve the impossible in being a fully formed character. There have only been a few handful of “Fool” characters that I’ve honestly enjoyed (Fran Kranz’s Marty from Cabin in the Woods being the standout in that department) and Clay is one of them.

The rest of the friend group is made up of: Hannah (Madison Pettis; American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules), Drew (Jedidiah Goodacre; Disney’s Descendants 2 and 3), Kayla (Phoebe Miu; Andie the Great), Devon (Jordan Buhat; grown-ish) and group drop-in/nemesis Lexi (Vanessa Morgan; Riverdale) all of whom give good, solid performances and create a friend/frenemy dynamic that allows the story to hit all the right group horror movie plot points.

The interactions between the group seem genuine; Lexi, as the movie’s Bitch Girl, embodies the passive-aggressive outsider and, when drunk, the necessary blunt chick perfectly, allowing Morgan to really sink her teeth into the role of Lexi wholeheartedly. While most Bitch Girl characters get what’s coming to them, there is a certain punch to Lexi’s comeuppance that is at once satisfying and hilarious. Kayla and Devon, the resident “Couple” whose love and lust for one another is very sweet, also manages to eschew the customary character trope thanks to a good chemistry between Miu and Buhat and writing that doesn’t seem to see a monogamous college-age relationship as weird. You genuinely see these characters together which makes what the house does with them more shocking. Drew and Hannah’s characters have obviously been into one another for years, even though Drew is dating super social media influencer Lexi, and their flirtations are palpable enough to drive home that they should be together. Like a lot of divergences that happen character-wise in this movie (which I truly appreciate) their storyline is interesting and doesn’t follow the traditional norms. Truths that are unveiled feel real; you really do care about them, and want them to win without feeling like you are compelled to.

Now for the real wow factor of the movie. Much praise should go to Susan Bennett who voices the house, Margaux, and gives a crazy-amazing performance. Seriously, the house is not just the BIG BAD, it is a fully formed character with intelligence, perfect cadence and a personality all it’s own. If A.I. gets to this point, I know that Margaux would be running Skynet and she would happily murder us. She is a cross between serial killer Aileen Wuornos and the video game Portal’s GLaDOS – and no, I am not kidding. Bennett not only portrays Margaux as a real “person” but as someone who thinks humanity is basically one giant asshole (even though she kinda wants to be one of us) and when she’s dealing with humans, she makes sure to be as sarcastic in her approach and dialect as she can possibly be. Basically, she wants to learn about us while shoving our banality in our faces all at the same time.

Margaux is a really fun movie.

While it doesn’t break new ground in the genre, it does play with it in an interesting and thoughtful way. The violence isn’t overly gross and reserves the real bloody stuff for one or two shocks that don’t feel forced, and the deaths (and near-deaths) are solid. It is a very “light” movie. Most of the bad stuff happens when its bright and sunny out (in a house that is almost entirely made of windows you’re going to get a lot of daylight) which is a nice change of pace, and all of the character feel real, which again, is something that you don’t always get in a group-centered horror movie.

I highly recommend it for any horror fan who just wants to be entertained and not completely grossed out.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Jamie Goehring, Brad Krevoy, Mick MacKay
Written by Chris Beyrooty, Nick Waters, Chris Sivertson
Directed by Steven C. Miller
Starring Brittany Mitchell, Jedidiah Goodacre, Jordan Buhat, Lochlyn Munro,
Louis Lay, Madison Pettis, Phoebe Miu, Richard Harmon, Vanessa Morgan 

 

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