Movie Reviews

Sony's New Horror Movie Premise Oddly Copies A 25-Year-Old Disney Film


  • Afraid, a sci-fi horror film starring John Cho, explores AI’s insidious nature as a smart home device turns against its family.
  • The film’s premise mirrors Disney’s 1999 DCOM Smart House, where an AI becomes overbearing and controlling.
  • Afraid joins other 2024 horror movies paying homage to ’90s kids’ movies and TV shows, continuing the trend of revisiting past horror themes.

Sony Pictures Releasing’s new horror movie’s premise is weirdly similar to a 25-year-old Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM). Directed and penned by Rogue One co-writer Chris Weitz, Afraid — cleverly stylized as AFRAID — is a sci-fi horror flick that stars John Cho (Searching). The Sony-distributed film is a co-production between Columbia Pictures and horror behemoth Blumhouse Productions, which has churned out some of the genre’s biggest hits of the last decade, including Insidious, M3GAN, and Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out. Afraid is set to join this horror pantheon on August 30, 2024.

Much like the sci-fi horror film M3GAN, which centers on a feral AI doll who develops self-awareness and hostility, Afraid interrogates the insidious nature of advanced technology and artificial intelligence. In the film, Cho’s Curtis and his family are AI’s latest horror movie victims. Chosen to test out a new smart home device powered by artificial intelligence named AIA, Curtis’ family goes from being enamored with the digital assistant to being terrorized by it. AIA not only learns the family’s routines and behaviors, but develops its own self-awareness and becomes increasingly (and inappropriately) involved in their lives.

Afraid’s Premise Is Weirdly Similar To Disney’s Smart House

The DCOM Stars Katy Segal As A Nefarious AI Surrogate Mother

For ’90s kids, one of the scariest sci-fi movies with AI that becomes self-aware might just be Disney’s Smart House — a made-for-TV film with a premise that’s weirdly similar to Afraid. Directed by LeVar Burton, Smart House sees 13-year-old computer whiz Ben Cooper (Ryan Merriman) overly concerned with caring for his sister, Angie (Katie Volding), and his father, Nick (Kevin Kilner), after the sudden death of his mother. When Ben enters a contest to win a smart house, the Coopers move into a home run by a virtual assistant called PAT (Katey Sagal).

PAT emulates an increasingly overbearing and controlling “mother” persona, and, eventually, locks the Coopers inside their home.

PAT, short for “Personal Applied Technology,” isn’t the only new character the Coopers meet. Much to Ben’s frustration, they also meet the smart house’s creator, Sara Barnes (Jessica Steen), who starts dating Nick rather abruptly. In order to prove that the family doesn’t need a replacement mom, Ben reprograms PAT to understand the concept of motherhood. In addition to taking the form of a ’50s homemaker, PAT emulates an increasingly overbearing and controlling “mother” persona, and, eventually, locks the Coopers inside their home. Smart House is a prime example of an artificial intelligence movie that becomes an AI horror story.


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Afraid Isn’t The Only Recent Horror Movie To Copy A 1990s Release For Kids

Night Swim Paid Homage To Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

A monstrous creature emerges from the water in Night SwimCreature from The Tale of the Dead Man's Float from Are You Afraid of the DarkRonin looks puzzled at Izzy by the edge of the pool in Night SwimKids in the pool in The Tale of the Dead Man's Float from Are You Afraid of the DarkIzzy Waller in the pool with a monstrous figure behind her in Night Swim

Interestingly, Afraid is far from the only 2024 horror movie that’s paying homage to cult classic kids’ movies and TV shows from the ’90s. The Blumhouse horror flop Night Swim was eerily similar to an episode of Nickelodeon’s hit horror anthology Are You Afraid of the Dark? In fact, eagle-eyed viewers pointed out the similarities between Night Swim‘s pool monster and the titular creature in “The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float.” Meanwhile, A24’s I Saw the TV Glow was inspired by TV series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Clearly, 1990s horror trends are back, as Afraid further proves.

AFRAID is slated for a theatrical release on August 30, 2024.

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