Blumhouse’s Fear Is Giving Disney’s Smart Home Fans Déjà Vu

“Smart House,” which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, follows a single father and his two children who, after winning a sweepstakes, move into a state-of-the-art smart home with a digital family assistant known as “PAT” (Katey Sagal). She’s an all-seeing AI assistant who observes the family to learn their behaviors, schedules, wants and needs, and can even anticipate things they might need. She makes healthy breakfasts at a mere hint, plays music videos on the walls to entertain the youngest child, and even mops up messes on the carpet to help with cleanup. With no mother figure in the family unit, PAT begins to assert herself as their new mom, even taking on a physical presence as a 1950s housewife (also played by Sagal) projects into the home.

Directed by LeVar Burton (yes, That The Burton Var), “Smart House” is remembered as one of the first DCOMs and is essentially a “Black Mirror” episode for pre-teens, with PAT existing as a combination of June Cleaver and HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” There’s even a moment where PAT is asked to unlock the door, to which he responds, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” just like HAL 9000. The children’s sci-fi comedy was way ahead of its time, and there have been several “smart house” movies in its wake. 2022 brought “MARGAUX,” a horror thriller about college students celebrating their last weekend as college students in a smart house with an advanced AI system called MARGAUX that wants to kill them off one by one.

Saying that “AfrAId” is a parody of “MARGAUX” or “Smart House” might seem appropriate to millennials who grew up on DCOM and watched the former, but “Smart House” was not the first of its kind.

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