For better or worse, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response has captured the ears and attention of millions of livestream fanatics. People spend hours, days, even weeks listening to ASMR for entertainment and titillation. The psychological thriller from screenwriters John Oak Dalton, Luka Nikolic, and Richard Pierce, and directed by Dalton, Smart House aims to add chills and thrills to the supposedly calming noise.
Mari (Iabou Windimere) is an influencer who has captivated the attention of tens of thousands of regular viewers. Without getting too detailed, the point of an ASMR stream is for the streamer to create sounds with their voice or other objects, triggering a tingling sensation down the back of their viewers. Mari achieves this with great success and has a growing fanbase. After an anxious and sleepless night, she is in a state of panic, which is exacerbated by thinking she hears someone else walking around in her home.
After nothing comes of that, Smart House introduces us Mari’s in-home virtual assistant, Cassandra (Brinke Stevens), which she suspects has gone haywire. We learn that the entire house is rigged with smart devices, such as virtually controlled locks, cameras, and voice assistance in almost every room. Of course, Cassandra is the only entity with control over every aspect of these devices. Things get tenser when the virtual assistant locks all the doors against Mari’s wishes and begins treating her like a puppet to carry out bizarre demands on her live stream.
“…the virtual assistant locks all the doors against Mari’s wishes and begins treating her like a puppet…”
Mari reaches out to her father over the phone. We learn that her father is the tech wiz who built Mari’s home to be a smart house and is the inventor of Cassandra. Mari expresses doubt about the integrity of Cassandra’s programming, leading her father on a trail of further investigation into the dark web to get to the bottom of things. Can her father fix Cassandra and rectify the situation, or will Mari forever be a prisoner in her house?
Smart House has a good premise but leaves a lot to be desired. The idea of a home full of smart devices forever connected to the internet has become a reality for many people. Even when proper measures are taken, the most secure networks can be hacked and manipulated by individuals seeking to do harm. It is terrifying to imagine someone being able to control your home, your sanctuary, where you lay your head down every night, all behind the anonymity of a computer. Sewn into this narrative is the livestreaming element, where the actions and words performed on camera can be viewed by anyone in the world. Mari being trapped in her home by someone who has hacked her virtual assistant or by Cassandra going rogue feels plausible enough.
Unfortunately, I never felt that Mari was in any real danger. Sometimes, some papers would print that Mari didn’t request, or the coffee pot would be set to brew when Mari wanted it canceled. Cassandra demands that Mari carry out different tasks during a stream, but what are the consequences if she doesn’t do these things? It seems the only serious consequence is that Mari’s doors will remain locked. Maybe she should try a window?
Smart House brings some cool concepts to the table, even if they aren’t fully explored. Dalton and company crafted a plausible story that feeds into some real-life anxiety. Give this a view if you’re looking for a technology-based thriller to add some spark to your evening.
"…brings some cool concepts to the table..."