OK, so I know I went on this huge rant the other day about review culture and all these fucking book and film know-it-alls on social media, but I’m different. I’ve actually had my own review column in both a print newspaper and a print magazine before. I’m also a reoccurring co-host on the Literary License Podcast. Translation? I’m qualified. Blow.
Also, I don’t like reviewing things I didn’t enjoy. There’s enough hate, negativity, and bullying in the world. If you want that kind of shit, visit Goodreads. You won’t have to dig too deep.
Now, where was I?
M3GAN is a 2023 film directed by Gerard Johnstone and starring Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, and Amie Donald. It was written by Akela Cooper and James Wan with a little team up action from Jason Blum. The names attached to this project are a dream come true for horror fans. Do they deliver?
Everything I’m about to go into is covered in the trailers so there are no spoilers.
M3GAN begins with Cady’s parents dying right before her eyes in a snowplow accident. I swear, fucking Marvel tries to steal every plotline, don’t they? That’s a Jeremy Renner joke. Too soon? She goes to live with her Aunt Gemma who works for an amazing tech toy company. She’s been working on the M3GAN doll behind the scenes and is ironically ready for testing just about the time her sister and brother-in-law pull a Renner. Still too soon?
As you can imagine, all hell breaks loose, and we have a killer doll on our hands. A really cute one with one heck of an attitude. She even dances better than that Wednesday chick on Netflix. Did you guys know that the dance sequence in that show was put together with almost 30 scene cuts in 90 seconds? Either get over this fucking Wednesday dance or raise your standards. Those stats are far from impressive and it’s time to begin jerking off to something else.
Anyway, back to M3GAN…
I remember falling in love with the trailer for this film months ago. I’ve only seen the original Child’s Play movie, so I’m not really versed well when it comes to killer dolls. There was just something about the trailer which led me to believe this would be laugh out loud funny as well as containing horror elements. I couldn’t have been more right.
I don’t recall the last time I was in a packed theater full of laughing patrons and it was a rather joyous occasion. Sure, people are dying or being placed in mortal danger, but it just so happens I find that shit funny. Most times, really. It works because the three main actresses sell this film.
It’s easy to tell that this film was originally shot to have an R rating but Universal made them tone it down for a more acceptable audience. I can see this film being the kind of thing a group of high school kids would go see together or perhaps some horror loving parents allowing their early teen child to cut their teeth on this. Something a little tamer which could open future doors for later, more gory horror films. No, not every parent shoves The Exorcist or The Shining into their child’s face as soon as their eyes are open. Just mine. Not everything needs to be Terrifier 2, and it doesn’t have to be as long as you have a great story and talented performances. This film has both.
Allison Williams does a fantastic job as the Aunt being a fish out of water with no children of her own. Still, I feel as though this role could’ve been played by just about anyone with half a Hollywood resume. Most will remember her from Get Out, and having that film on your record will land you a job anywhere.
Also, the young actress who plays the killer toy M3GAN did a creepy job of bringing the film’s subject matter to life. Combined with the voice of Jenna Davis (a local girl from Plano, Texas!), they make the antagonist of this film out to be a believable danger grounded in modern reality. Still, I feel as though either the voice or the body actor could’ve been substituted for anyone.
The real star of this film is our young Cady played by Violet McGraw. Fellow horror enthusiasts may remember her from the Netflix series Haunting of Hill House or her small role in Doctor Sleep. This kid has mastered the art of acting through facial expressions and there are times in this movie when you swear she’s going to be the true villain. Sometimes, a bad child actor can make or break a film like this, and McGraw shines as the troubled child who rides the fine line between healing and hate.
The only thing preventing this movie from truly being a horror masterpiece is the fact you can tell the editing room floor may be protecting some of the best scenes from the film. It’s common knowledge now that Universal stepped in when they realized how much trailer hype the internet was buzzing with and made the filmmakers cut the film to a PG13 theatrical cut. My only hope is that they will offer an R rated director’s cut when this movie hits streaming, digital, and Blu Ray.
But did this movie live up to my own hype?
This is not some dumb horror movie about a killer doll. This is a deep dive into loss, healing, and attachment. It’s a road map for where our own children and grandchildren are heading with modern technology and the internet taking the place of our parental teachings. Yes, there’s lots of laughs, some killing, and even a little bit of gore here and there, but this film has a message for those of us who are smart enough to recognize it aka my wife with the psychology degree. We actually discussed this film on into the night long after the credits rolled.
The bottom line: this movie is laugh aloud funny and edge of your seat suspenseful, but the gore and violence were toned way down when the studio overstepped into the filmmaker’s creative process. With any luck, this will be remedied with the home release but, in the meantime, I would suggest seeing this in a theatrical setting. A full theatrical setting if you can find one. Preferrable one with a group of screaming, easily frightened cheerleaders who unanimously voted to view this film as a way of sharing an interest with ‘the cool kids’.
I grade this movie a 4 out of 5 discarded ears…
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