Blumhouse Horror Offering Will Make You Shriek & Laugh
It’s a concept we’ve seen across screens big and small: The killer doll wreaks havoc on its owner’s life. Besides M3GAN, the hashtag #RenewChucky was recently trending following the USA Network show’s acclaimed second season, for example. But familiarity aside, there’s no denying Universal’s new farfetched fright-fest will incite nightmares, no matter how silly the premise may come off.
From two iconic minds in the horror realm — James Wan, the filmmaker behind that ongoing Conjuring franchise, and Jason Blum, the celebrated producer of the latest Halloween films, The Black Phone, and The Invisible Man — comes what Universal dubs “a fresh new face in terror” (to say the least). Gerard Johnstone (Housebound) directs from a flawed but flashy screenplay by Akela Cooper (Malignant, The Nun 2). There are at least one or two subplots that go nowhere (such as a sketchy co-worker who tries to sabotage his company), but these story setbacks aren’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. More importantly, M3GAN has and will surely continue to set the internet abuzz.
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Familiar Concept Still Delivers the Scares
“M3GAN actually started before Malignant,” Wan recently told The Hollywood Reporter. “We were working on them roughly about the same time, if memory serves me right. But M3GAN started first, and I just love working with Akela. What I love about her is just how brave she is. She’s not afraid to just go out there, lean into the absurd and make it work. That’s the craziest thing. She can take an idea that’s really outside of the box and bring a human element to it. That’s what I do, and that’s what Jason does, so it’s worked very well for us. I don’t want to say it’s a formula, but it’s a pattern that we truly believe in across all the horror films that we do. We’ve discovered that our successful horror movies that people love are the ones with human qualities that people can relate to, and that was definitely the mission statement going into M3GAN as well.”
So there you have it: Meet M3GAN, a marvel of artificial intelligence, a life-like doll programmed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. The premise lays out that the concept was initially designed by a brilliant toy-company roboticist named Gemma (Allison Williams, making a welcome return to horror following Jordan Peele’s Get Out). We quickly learn through a splashy intro late in the first act that M3GAN can listen, watch, and learn as she becomes a friend, teacher, playmate, and protector, at least for the child she’s bonded to.
Related: James Wan Calls M3GAN ‘Fun, But Still A Horror Film’ in New Featurette
Speaking of introductions, the film certainly kicks off with a bang. Before the title cards even appear, we see a “Furby” knockoff commercial (sort of like how Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder began, with those hilarious faux ads promoting fictional A-listers like Alpa Chino). Tragedy strikes Gemma’s sister and brother-in-law in the follow-up scene, causing Gemma to become the caretaker of her orphaned 8-year-old niece Cady (Violet McGraw, recognizable from The Haunting of Hill House). Gemma is unsure and very much unprepared to be a parent. One could argue Williams simply nails the role, her acting range certainly improved since HBO’s Girls. But even in that Lena Dunham show, Williams was still pretty darn good.
Under intense pressure at work, Gemma decides to pair her M3GAN prototype with Cady in an attempt to “save the day” for Cady’s grief — a decision that will have unimaginable consequences. When Cady is feeling lonely, M3GAN sings. Seems fine, right? When Cady worries that she’ll lose the memories of her late mom and dad, M3GAN swoops in and records Cady’s recollections, storing them on M3GAN’s built-in memory drive. But when Cady is bullied, you shouldn’t doubt that M3GAN will step in to save the day here as well — with violence, that is, and plenty of it.
In the moments of violence, the film’s accompanying soundtrack will make you laugh out loud as M3GAN struts her stuff and takes out anyone in her way. It’s certainly worth it to see a film like this in theaters. The audience reactions will surely be sheer entertainment alone.
Worthy of Polarizing Critics and Viewers
Universal’s new horror offering has been described by its filmmakers as a “cautionary tale,” showing what could theoretically happen if humans go too far down the rabbit hole with artificial intelligence. At the end of the day, the film tells the story of a killer doll whose AI makes her a bit too protective of a young girl she swears to be best friends with forever. As a filmgoer, you simply must commit to this seemingly silly premise in order to fully enjoy M3GAN.
As there’s a portion of horror fans uninterested in seeing anything less than an R rating, there have been some who’ve already written off seeing M3GAN this month. M3GAN may not be a total gorefest if its PG-13 rating is any indication, but its filmmakers are standing by it. Don’t let the mild MPAA rating take you out of the fright-fest that should definitely ensue. If you love to be scared in theaters, you should probably see M3GAN before it’s too late.
M3GAN comes to us from Blumhouse Productions.