If James Wan has kids, I feel sorry for them because the man clearly has an issue with dolls in the house. From Dead Silence, to the Annabelle films and now M3GAN, the poor man clearly has some residual childhood trauma based around a doll of some sort.
As a younger sibling, I bet he has an older sister!
M3GAN was written by Akela Cooper, who wrote Malignant (which I really liked) based on Wan’s story, and was directed by Gerard Johnstone, who also directed the quirky New Zealand horror tale Housebound and tells of 9 year old Cady (Violet McGraw), who lost her parents in a tragic car accident and has been made the ward of her aunt, Gemma (Allison Williams) who works for the toy company, Funki and is the creator of the popular app-based toy, PerPetual Pets.
Gemma is somewhat of a loner and is ill-prepared for parenthood, and so she revisits her design for a virtual friend called ‘M3GAN’ (Amie Donald as the body, Jenna Davis as the voice and various special effects models) whom she imprints Cady onto so they can become best of friends. M3GAN’s programming allows her to grow and adapt to her environment, and her AI adjusts to suit the owner’s needs, including education and protection.
Unfortunately, Cady becomes far too dependent on M3GAN, and more worryingly, M3GAN’s comprehension of her ‘protective’ programming becomes far more literal and those who hurt or cross Cady end up in M3GAN’s crosshairs, with deadly results…
The film sits firmly in those ‘evil doll’ sub-genre of horror films, even though the technological aspect probably is rarer than the ‘possessed by a demon’ idea as in Annabelle or Dolly Dearest. It doesn’t offer much new, as in the threat of the doll is the cornerstone of the story, and even the technological aspect has been used before in things like Small Soldiers, and more recently in 2019’s Child’s Play remake.
I feel this film really is influenced by what I’ve observed in working retail and the way some parents parent their children these days. The misunderstanding of Gemma of what it is to be to be a parent, and to just hand a child something like an iPad and hope they are ok is so prevalent in society that to me, it’s borderline child abuse. Some children are so absorbed with their devices that they no longer become aware of an outside world: I work in a toy store and it horrifies me when I see kids not look up from their screens to look at the toys.
The cast in this film are a perfect fit. McGraw is comfortable in her role as a child… funnily enough she is one… and manages the emotional movement from mourning to obsessive as a more mature actor would. Williams, who I loved in Jordan Peele’s Get Out, is fabulous in her clearly out of her depth sudden parent role, who is not managing to maintain a work/ life balance. A special shout out has to go to Ronny Chieng as David, Gemma’s boss who quite frankly, is a massive arsehole, and he plays it to a T: that ambition Xennial type who sacrifices relationships for financial status.
The real winner cast member though is M3GAN herself. The special effects are fabulous and the menacing looks from what is essentially a blank slate shows a subtlety that stands above. The physical presence of Donald with some of the strange dances and bodily contortions really speak to the characterisation as well. Davis’ voice talents as M3GAN’s again, like the face, have a underlying threat to almost everything she says.
The character is such a striking image that the use of her in the viral Tik Tok-styled dance advertising was the perfect storm of weird and hard to look away from.
The film also seems to be lining up a couple of toy companies, even actually the entire toy industry, in its sights, from the frankly crass advertisement that the film opens with for the PerPetual Pet that emulates the awful fad toys that toy companies continue to force upon parents, especially with the advent of influencers who are claiming to be anti-corporate or ‘green’ whilst showing off the latest piece of plastic crap they were ‘gifted’ by the companies for ‘review purposes’, to what seems to be the direct targeting of Funko, of Funko Pop (TM) fame, with the company name ‘Funki’.
I wanted to like this film, and I believe I have a simmering affection for it due to the characters rather than the story, which let’s face it, is simply too late! As mentioned before, the remake of Child’s Play in 2019 certainly offered the idea of a fully interactive electronic toy as the villain and even though the much-loved Aubrey Plaza and Mark Hamill are in it, it was poorly received. This is certainly a better film than that but that doesn’t make it a good film, thoigh it is a fun and easy-to-watch distraction with some solid performances.
This disc comes with two different versions of the film, a theatrical, and the incorrectly named ‘Unrated’ version (incorrectly named as it quite clearly says <MA15+> on the cover) which has a little more gore and a few extra bits of swearing, because you know, the difference between a film for adults and one for teenagers is how often the word ‘fuck’ is said. Ridiculous. Funnily enough, the unrated, gorier version is shorter because with the gore added back in, the scenes of tension didn’t need to be in place so those scenes are shorter.
Disc: There are only three extras on this disc:
A New Vision of Horror is the occasionally slightly embarrassing ‘oh, he’s the master of modern horror’ pieces that these things have on them.
Bringing life to M3GAN looks at the special effects and the young artist who played the title role, and how the rest of the cast reacted to them.
Getting Hacked is not about you PC, but a look an the gore and violence in the film and how it was executed.
This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray release, purchased from JB Hifi.