Sean Olson’s last family outing was the sci-fi adventure FREDI. While I did not write the review of it on Film Threat, I did watch the movie on Netflix not too long ago. I found it to be inoffensively bland. Though the target audience of 10-year olds will probably get much more out of it than any adults (for those curious, check the perfection of Earth To Echo instead). As such, I went into Max Winslow And The House Of Secrets with virtually no expectations one way or the other.
Well, I am happy to report that Max Winslow And The House Of Secrets is an exceptional movie. Before the film had even been on for 10-minutes, I was already entranced. Wild’s script has no fat to trim, setting up each of the main characters well. While the story isn’t new, there are enough twists or variations for it to come across as refreshing and unique. The most exciting aspect is how the games are individually tailored to each contestant. Benny gets stuck in a virtual reality dungeon crawl with literal life or death stakes. Aiden is forced to play baseball as a form of punishment. Sophia becomes trapped in a bathroom with her creepy, talking reflection. Connor appears as a contestant on a 1950s sitcom-game show hybrid, of sorts. As for Max, well, you’ll need to watch the film.
“…most exciting aspect is how the games are individually tailored…”
Not everything in the screenplay is a winner though. The “potato” and “french fries” fist bump reeks of trying too hard to be hip. And at times, it feels as if the characters act dumber than they are otherwise, or know the answers to trivia questions seemingly out of nowhere solely for the sake of plot convenience. While not detracting from Max Winslow And The House Of Secret too much, these moments do stand out, in a bad way, because so much of the script is very well thought out.
Olson, who also edited the movie, strikes the perfect tonal balance of drama- stemming from the characters’ personal demons- intense thrills, visceral excitement, and comedy. During a somewhat creepy sequence, a desperate Sophia’s reflection is scolding her. While at the same time convincing Sophia of a new way to gain even more followers. The camera zooms into the reflection, providing a nail-biting moment. This is happening as Max is having the most dramatic conversation of the whole film. Both elements work and blend seamlessly.
"…a technology-gone-awry thriller aimed at the entire family."