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Max Winslow and the House of Secrets


Stars: Sydne Mikelle, Tanner Buchanan, Jade Chynoweth, Tyler Christopher, Jason Genao, Chad Michael Murray. Voice: Marina Sirtis

Director: Sean Olson

Let's get one thing straight to start with: Max Winslow (Mikelle) is a girl. A near-genius, friendless computer nerd who retreated into her shell after her father left home for another woman. Now she's one of five high-school teens invited to the game- and trap-riddled mansion of Atticus Virtue (Murray), an eccentric, cyber-obsessed billionaire. He's decreed that the victor in the games wins the mansion itself.

But first our teenage heroes must outwit the mysterious, unseen Haven (voice of Sirtis), Virtue's all-controlling box of tricks who is the teens' guide and tormentor as they face frightening challenges that prey on their greatest weaknesses.

The result combines those puzzle-room movies with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There's the loner (Max), the bully, the compulsive gamer (cf Mike Teevee), the girl obsessed with her social image and the dentist's son who wants to be a musician against his parents' wishes.

The film starts well, with some ingenious, if unlikely problem-solving and impressive production design. But it loses its way in a long middle section where the contestants move virtually out of the house to confront their own secrets and demons.

The last reel returns the movie to its initial balance.

Mikelle, a little mature for her role (she's 25) and the others are all pretty bland, with Genao, as the gamer, the only engaging character in the bunch. But it passes the time pleasantly enough and, despite the certificate, is acceptable fare for older primary school students.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Munro Film Services. Colour by Lightbender.
99 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 18 Oct 2020