Available on digital platforms from the 15th February Max Winslow and The House of Secrets is a family teen movie where a select group of high school students are invited to the home of eccentric entrepreneur Atticus Virtue to compete to become the winner of his mansion.
Local hometown technology billionaire Atticus Virtue (Chad Michael Murray), a sort of Elon Musk meets Willy Wonka, has an unusual influence over his former high school in Arkansas. His start up businesses in computer sciences and space flights are now redefining artificial intelligence and as the school’s major benefactor, having donated a whopping $45 million sports stadium, he is able to interrupt classes with a hologram broadcast to announce his latest challenge, a competition for 5 especially selected students to compete in a game for the key to his mansion.
The 5 students find out they’ve been chosen via smartphone much to their delight and are a mix of personalities and talents. The lead is Max (Sydne Mikelle) a geeky female computer programmer who’s the tech guru able to hack into her neighbours smart doorbells and can figure out just about everything except how to get a boyfriend. She has a crush on Connor (Tanner Buchanan) the high school lacrosse star who wants to sing and play cheesy acoustic guitar numbers much to his parents dismay. Then there is also Sophia (Jade Chynoweth) the glamorous social media influencer who is totally unapologetic about her superficial pursuit of getting likes online, Benny the 24 hour gamer (Jason Genao) and Aidan (Emery Kelly) the too cool for school rebel with a bad attitude.
Their arrival at the mansion doesn’t come without a certain amount of trepidation. There are rumours Virtue’s newly unveiled hi-tec pad has been used for human experiments. What kind of experiments is unknown only that he has been working on a top secret project to change reality. They are welcomed by the voice of Haven – the home automated venture, an AI system that controls everything in the house, basically a super tech version of Alexa. Haven is assisted by Sir Mordred the robotic knight, Virtue’s first invention, a menacing looking and sounding Jeeves the butler.
The kids trials begin when they enter the cinema room / golf driving range (the rooms are big and there are lots of them). They get locked in and they’ve only got 3 attempts to crack the code to the door before they are trapped there forever – the first sign that things in the mansion might not be too comfortable for our contestants. The game is now properly underway as the young competitors begin to explore the house accumulating points and solving puzzles, and as they enter the different rooms they come face to face with augmented AI realities of the biggest challenges impacting their lives.
Director Sean Olsen has created an entertaining teen movie that brings a futuristic world to the screen. Its simplified plot meanderings illustrate a vision of the future dominated by AI and an eccentric tech billionaire’s influence on school life whilst touching on some deeper teen social and family issues. It maintains a level of sweetness throughout that means the controlling AI system never gets too sinister and in the final drone onslaught the kids show they’ve got this in a soft teen Breakfast Club way.
Film: Max Winslow and The House of Secrets
Director: Sean Olsen
Stars: Sydne Mikelle, Tanner Buchanan, Jason Genao, Emery Kelly, Chad Michael Murray and Jade Chynoweth
Genre: Family / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Run time: 1hr 38min