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Directed by Gerard Johnstone
Produced by James Wan and Jason Blum
Written by Akela Cooper and James Wan
With: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng, Amie Donald, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Stephane Garneau-Monten, Lori Dungey, Amy Usherwood, and the voice of Jenna Davis
Cinematography: Peter McCaffrey
Editing: Jeff McEvoy
Music: Anthony B. Willis
Runtime: 102 min
Release Date: 06 January 2023
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1
Color: Color

It's always a good omen when the first release of the new year delivers! Traditionally considered a dumping ground for weak movies, January has actually been more of a month for counterprogramming when cinemas are still full of awards pictures. While I highly doubt M3GAN will end up on my top ten of 2023, this is one of the best early January pictures to come along in a while, and it's also a damn fun night at the movies.

Allison Williams gives an outstanding lead performance as Gemma, a toy designer at a high-tech robotics company who is about to perfect her latest invention, a life-like AI-equipped doll called M3GAN designed to be a child’s perfect companion. Around this time, Gemma becomes the legal guardian of her late sister’s orphaned child (Violet McGraw). The timing is tough, as the career-focused Gemma is saddled with this huge responsibility right at a time when her job is in jeopardy. But, then again, this sullen little girl who's been dropped on her doorstep could be the ideal subject to test her prototype. Of course, in manufacturing a child's perfect artificial friend and (importantly) protector, Gemma and her team have unwittingly created a monster.

Director Gerard Johnston's picture explores themes well covered in films ranging from Electric Dreams to Terminator 2, to Her; from "The Living Doll" episode of The Twilight Zone to the original Child's Play, to Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence. But M3GAN does not feel derivative. This is an exemplary modern variation on the ever-more-present theme that the machines we invent to make our lives easier will soon bring about the end of our lives.

The script comes from Akela Cooper, who came to prominence with 2021's equally crowd-pleasing James Wan indie horror picture Malignant. Wan's figure prints are all over this movie too, as producer and co-story writer. It also boasts many of the best low-budget qualities of its producer Jason Blum. But, despite a slew of logic problems (only a few of which matter in the slightest), M3GAN is far more satisfying than Malignant, last year's The Black Phone, or most other recent Blumbhouse productions. The combination of humour and horror is just about perfect in M3GAN. The design and execution of the doll herself performed on set by Amie Donald, voiced by Jenna Davis, and enhanced by a first-rate visual effects team—is really special. Her look is apparently based on golden-age movie stars like Grace Kelly and Kim Novak, but she looks like a psychotic version of the pre-teen Chloë Grace Moretz to me.

While the movie is PG-13, this is a lot harsher than the R-rated Child's Play from back in the '80s. But the violence on display here is the kind of enjoyably comic savagery unleashed on characters (human and animal) who are painted to "deserve it." The tonal dexterity required to enable this rooting for people to get maimed and butchered has always been far trickier than it would seem. And these days, it's practically impossible to create roles that general audiences want to see a crazed robot doll brutally attack without the performances coming off as tediously two-dimensional. A couple of Gemma's higher-ups come close but, for the most part, each character is written and performed with just enough humanity (not the good side of humanity, but the shit that makes humanity suck) to make them credible and not just straw men (or straw dogs). For even casual horror fans, M3GAN is a delight!


My Full Review Here

Twitter Capsule:

In their killer doll flick, Gerard Johnston, Akela Cooper, and James Wan deliver a fresh variation on the ever-more-present theme that the machines we invent to make our lives easier will soon bring about the end of our lives.