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Blu-ray Review: M3GAN (Unrated Edition)

April 25, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Here comes M3GAN, the latest killer doll movie that follows in the footsteps of previous films about murderous toys like Chucky and Annabelle. The difference is that M3GAN (which was produced by James Wan, the driving force behind the Annabelle movies) aims to be more campy than scary.

It focuses on the dangers of artificial intelligence instead of possession, with the film’s titular A.I. doll turning evil due to programming run amok as opposed to any supernatural interference. The trade off is a horror comedy that is never overtly scary, but is still fairly enjoyable in fits and starts.

The film centres around Cady (Violet McGraw), a young girl who is sent to live with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), after her parents are killed in a car accident on a snowy mountain road. Gemma is a toy developer at a company called Funki, who are behind a series of creepy, Furby-like smart toys called Purrpetual Petz that are controlled by an app (the fake commercial that opens the film tells us they are better than real pets, because they don’t die).

Gemma has been developing a new toy under the nose of her greedy boss David (Ronny Chieng) that proves to be even more revolutionary; a life-size, artificially intelligent doll called M3GAN, short for Model 3 Generative Android. Gemma introduces the singing, dancing M3GAN to her niece Cady as a friend for her. M3GAN herself is brought to the screen through an impressive mix of animatronics and puppeteering, enhanced with movements performed by New Zealand dancer Amie Donald and voiced by American YouTuber Jenna Davis, to achieve an uncanny valley effect.

M3GAN’s prime directive is to look after whatever human child she is paired with. But there are still some bugs to be worked out in her coding, and she becomes overly attached to Cady, to the point that she will do away with anyone who gets in her way. It’s a concept that might work better if the Child’s Play remake from 2019 hadn’t already done something very similar in regards to an A.I. doll becoming dangerously overprotective of a child (and with better results, in my opinion).

If M3GAN plays as a bit of a satire of sleazy toy companies trying to turn a profit, the film itself can feel like a bit of a hollow product. Instead of offering a more meaningful exploration of its themes about A.I. taking over the role of human caregivers, the film instead plays out with a mostly tongue-in-cheek tone, and ready-made meme moments such as the brief hallway dance that became the focal point of much of the marketing.

Producer Wan and screenwriter Akela Cooper were the same forces behind the genuinely original and messed up 2021 horror flick Malignant, and M3GAN feels somewhat tame by comparison. This is an often intentionally campy film that is played more for laughs than scares (though there are some creepy moments and a couple of mild jumps), and the story itself is almost entirely predictable. But M3GAN is able to occupy a space as a sort of gateway drug PG-13 horror movie, offering a killer doll flick that isn’t particularly scary but has more of a fun, playful feel to it.

New Zealand director Gerard Johnstone keeps the film moving at a quick pace, and brings it to the screen with some solid practical effects. If the predictable story can grow a bit tedious as it goes along, and never quite builds to as much of a slasher movie finale as is promised, M3GAN is still intermittently fun, and offers enough enjoyably campy moments to keep it mildly entertaining.

As a final note, the Blu-ray offers both the theatrical version of the film (which was released in theatres this past January to critical and box office success) as well as the unrated version that was previously put out on digital platforms. The unrated version is basically identical (both versions are 102 minutes), save for a few added f-bombs and a bit more blood splatter during the film’s handful of kills. Everything else remains the same.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray also includes three featurettes on the production. A regular DVD is included in the package, which ships with a standard slipcover.

A New Vision of Horror (5 minutes, 51 seconds): Producer Wan talks about his reputation as a “killer doll filmmaker” and collaborating with Blumhouse in this general overview of the production, which also touches on shooting in New Zealand and the use of LED screens and practical effects.

Bringing Life to M3GAN (5 minutes, 22 seconds): A closer look at how the effects team blended animatronics, puppeteering, and Amie Donald’s physical performance to bring the titular doll to the screen. Helps us further appreciate what is the most technically impressive aspect of the film.

Getting Hacked (3 minutes, 45 seconds): Another look at Donald’s performance and some of the prosthetics and practical effects used in the film.

M3GAN is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 102 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: April 4th, 2023

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