M3GAN (2022)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of M3GAN.

M3GAN (2022)

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 (Allison Williams) isn’t very good at life, real or artificial

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.

Cady (Violet McGraw)

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…

Model 3 Generative Android aka M3GAN

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.

The menu screen to the Bluray release of M3GAN

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.

M3GAN on the workbench

The Curse of the Weeping Woman (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Curse of the Weeping Woman aka The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Film: Sometimes, when choosing a movies, alarm bells should ring.

First, I don’t like supernatural films, but like some kind of self-flagellating moron, I still like to give them a chance, hoping that I might find another Sinister, instead of another dumb piece of tripe like Insidious. My mistake here was that the cover quite clearly states ‘From The Producers of The Conjuring Universe’ which for someone like me who isn’t a fan, that basically is like a restaurant having a sign out the front that says “our chef has a cold and never washes his hands after taking a dump’ and me going in and eating there anyway.

I deserve whatever I get.

Secondly, I occasionally make the mistake of watching a film because of the lead actor, and I have sat through some buckets of poop because of this. In this case, the tempting lure was two-fold: Linda Cardellini, Velma from the 2002 and 2004 Scooby Doo movies, stars and one of the supporting actors is Patricia Velasquez, from 1999’s The Mummy, and I bit like a hungry trout at a fish farm.

This film is directed by Michael Chavez, from a story by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, who co-wrote Five Feet Apart, the teen tear-jerker… was that another alarm bell?

Set in 1973, The Curse of the Weeping Woman tells of social worker, Anna (Cardellini) who has been called to investigate Patricia Alvarez (Velasquez) who has apparently been abusing her sons, but when she gets to Patricia’s house, she finds the boys locked in a closet, and Patricia willing to defend their imprisonment… violently if need be.

The police step in and Patricia tells Anna she needs to protect the boys from La Llorona, before she is taken away, and her sons are placed in temporary housing. On the first night there, though, they are taken by ‘something’ and drowned.

Anna, a single mum herself, is called to the scene of the crime late at night and has to take her son and daughter with her. Her son sneaks out of the car to see what’s going on and is attacked by a spirit of a woman, who attaches herself to the family, and the terror of the Weeping Woman, a scorned women who killed her sons and then herself, continues…

Will Anna and her children be able to survive her grasp, even after they enlist the help of father religious man, Rafael (Raymond Cruz), a shaman with seeming insane practises for exorcising ghosts?

Now the first thing I must point out that this isn’t just from ‘the producers of the Conjuring universe’ but IS a part of the Conjuring universe, and the character of Father Perez, played by Tony Amendola, was also in 2014’s Annabelle, so maybe that blurb on the cover should say ‘ steeped well within The Conjuring universe’.

Now, this is one of those post-millennial ghost stories that all seem the same: set in the seventies (to avoid technological trappings like mobile phones), deep bassy sounds to add to the terror, a ghost style-guide that fits an aesthetic that has worked so far in far too many films, a cold filter on the image to make everything look dark and wet (or should I say ‘the Wan Ghost Aesthetic) and a bizarre re-installation of Christianity/ Catholicism wielded loosely by a bizarre shaman as the heroic tool.

It’s boring, made seemingly exciting by SUDDEN INCREASES IN VOLUME, but essential is just another forgettable ghost story that’s directed well and has a half-decent cast

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B release which runs for 83 minutes and is presented in a high definition 2.4:1 image with a matching Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track, which it relies on heavily for its scares. Honestly you couldn’t watch this late at night while everyone else was in bed because you would be adjusting the volume up and down for the quiet ghostly bits and the LOUD SCARES!

Score: ****

Extras: There are 5 extras on this disc.

The Myth of La Llorona is a brief look at the history of the myth of the Mexican ghost ‘the Crying Woman’ and how it apparently dates back to the days of Cortez. This isn’t the first time this myth has been filmed: the TV show ‘Supernatural’ used her legend in the pilot episode, and in 1963, Mexican Director Rafael Baladón’s Le Maledición de la Llorona entertained the legend as well. This featurette is two minutes of cast members talking about the legend.

Behind the Curse looks at the making of the film and the incorporation of the legend into the film. Hilariously, one of the cast members mentions how it’s ‘not cliched’ which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

The Making of a Monster looks at the design of this ‘new, original’ monster. Make up effects are always interesting so at least it did offer that, and the performer Marisol Ramirez is a trooper.

Deleted scenes are just that! About ten minutes worth of stuff that really didn’t add to the film at all, if anything, it detracted from it somewhat, and would had slowed the film down, and even made Cardellini’s character seem maybe less of a good mother than she was.

Storyboards shows some PIP storyboards in comparison to the film, but don’t expect beautiful lavish illustrations here! No these are fairly crudely drawn thumbnails but they show they sat pretty close to the final film and it’s always interesting to see a director or cinematographer’s processes.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I can 100% guarantee the next time I need to see something with Cardellini in it, I’ll watch Scooby Doo again and that’s a much better rewatcher.

Saw (2004)

One from the rewatch pile…

Saw (2004)

Film: The genesis of Saw came from two young Australian writers trying to overcome the main problem of limited budget independent film-making: an interesting story utilizing a small cast. Sometimes, as in the case of this story by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the story can be so good that it gains the attention of Hollywood producers. With that kind of interest it’s only a matter of time before you get a decent cast, including Cary Elwes (Twister), Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), Monica Potter (Along Came a Spider) and Shawnee Smith (The Blob) and Whannell himself, and you have a serious movie on your hands, though it has been suggested that the inclusion of names like Glover and Elwes were working of a contractual obligation.

The Saw films became an impressively successful series that saw one being released every Halloween until 2010, and the sequels, which revelled in their love of the torture devices, became a part of the ‘torture porn’ titles named by critic David Edelstein (apparently: he is regularly cited as the one who coined the term) in 2006. People got up in arms over the whole ‘torture porn’ thing, but splatter movies had been around from the sixties, so they all needed to cram the Hell down.

The story of Saw is simple: two men wake up chained by their legs to pipes on either side of an abandoned men’s room. A doctor, Lawrence (Cary Elwes) and a young photographer, Adam (Leigh Whannell) have to sift through a series of clues and lies, to figure out how to get out, but the clock is ticking. As they discuss previous experiences that may have led to their imprisonment, including Lawrence’s being pursued by an obsessed ex-cop (Danny Glover) who believes him to be a violent criminal; they slowly start to realise the truth of their terrifying predicament.

The performances from all the actors are impressive, although Leigh Whannell’s character has more whine than the entire Hunter Valley, and it tends to become a bit annoying at times. I honestly not sure if it’s Whannell’s This film is powerful and has many moments where you really cannot begin to guess the outcome.

In a time when the average viewer expects twists and turns, it is hard to come up with new ideas, but Wan and Whannell delivered the goods, enough so to be some of the ‘pioneers’ of torture porn, if that’s something they want to own up to… I know I would as I enjoyed the whole sub genre. Unfortunately, the story does rely occasionally of coincidence or for characters to do specific things for Jigsaw’s plan to work, but I guess that’s cinema, isn’t it?

A really good film let down by a poor extras package. Saw deserves a lot more respect than what it gets from this release. On it’s own however, it is certainly worth all of it’s hype, make sure you see Saw.

Score: ****

Format: This is a real interesting film to watch. Using everything from an Argento-ish palette to CCTV style images, Saw is very nice to look at, especially on bluray, coming in on the a]Australian multi-region release at a 1.78:1 image. It has a sharp image and even treats its ‘total darkness’ scenes with a nice lighting style. There are only two choices for sound: 5.1 Dolby Digital EX and 6.1 DTS ES (which was not reviewed.. The sound have great depth to them and each echo lingers and creates a truly spine-chilling atmosphere.

Score: ****

Extras: The old DVD release had some pretty poor extras on it but that’s NOTHING compared to this BD release, which has nothing on it but a bluray trailer which talks about the format, and what releases are coming. This release of Saw did come out fairly early in the Bluray lifecycle, to the point it even has a ‘this is how bluray works’ feature on it!

Score: *

WISIA: Oh yeah, I dig this film and some of its ever-unfolding sequels.

The Nun (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Nun (2018)

Film: At some time, earlier this century, someone in Hollywood decided that movies with ‘real’ killers, like slashers and so-called torture porn, were no longer in vogue, and that the cinema going kids needed to be afraid of the supernatural again, and of things that are associated with the bible and western religions. Is Hollywood trying to scare kids back to church? I’m not so sure, but what I do know is that these films, and I am going to single out The Conjuring films (a series of which this film is a part of) and the Insidious films, are by-the-book formulaic works that are only labelled ‘horror’ by the easily frightened or those who have never been to the cinema before, and think of movies as some kind of magic performed by warlocks and witches.

This film, The Nun, is written by Gary Dauberman, who also is responsible for the two Annabelle films, but on the bright side gave us the wonderful adaptation of Stephen King’s It, and directed by Corin Hardy, the director of the horror film The Hallow, and a bunch of music clips. It all, of course, takes place in the fictional world created by Chad and Carey Hayes for the original Conjuring film, directed by James Wan.

This film, though, tells of a priest, Father Burke (Demian Bichir doing is very best Father Karras from the Exorcist impression) and a mildly psychic novice nun, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who are sent into the woods of the Romanian countryside to investigate the apparent suicide of a DIFFERENT nun, but the convent they are visiting has a terrible secret, and along with their guide, a French-Canadian named… sigh… ‘Frenchie’ (Jonas Bloquet) they must fight against the forces of evil, embodied by a horrific figure of a yet ANOTHER Nun (Bonnie Aarons).

Taking elements from SO many films this movie struggles to find it own identity, and falls on its face with its tale. All through this film I was constantly reminded either by visual cues or by plot devices that it’s originality was somewhat lacking. It is like a mix of scenes from amazing Euro-horror films like a The Church, The Sect, the Blind Dead Series and others, I even got a Silent Hill vibe a couple of times, but without the originality, or even the honesty of those films.

The very best thing I can say about this film is it’s filmed great and the locations are exquisite. I should also point out what a striking figure that Bonnie Aarons strikes as the titular Nun: her look is quite unique and ready makes the character something special!

Unfortunately, this film is a veritable checklist of horror tropes, all making for a film that screams ‘GENERIC’ at the top of its lungs. Seriously, you could play ‘horror trope bingo’: “I’ve got ‘lights flickering off one by one in a hallway’…. BINGO!”

A blurb on the back claims ‘The Scariest Conjuring Yet’: it’s not, and out of a group of films that flat out AREN’T scary at all, that isn’t even a badge of honour, and by the way, if Nun-spoliation is your thing, this isn’t.

It’s a ‘bimbo’ film: boring, but pretty.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian release Bluray, which is presented in a perfect 2.40:1 image with a matching Dolby HD-DTS 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There are 4 extras on this disc:

A New Horror Icon which explores the look and design of the Nun, and discusses her ability to be a resounding icon.

Gruesome Planet is an amazing travelogue of Romania, where this film was made, and it looks at the various castles and other locations used.

The Conjuring Chronology places the entire series (this film, the two Conjurings and the two Annabelle films) in the order of their occurrence.

There are 7 Deleted Scenes on this disc which wouldn’t make the film any better or worse if they styled in.

Score: ****

WISIA: The only way I’d ever watch this again is by accident.

The Conjuring 2 (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Conjuring 2 (2016)

The Cover of the Australian Bluray for The Conjuring 2


Film: I don’t deliberately try to be antagonistic when I find things I don’t like that the rest of the general public, and fandom enjoy. It’s put me at the solo end of several arguments: my dislike of The Blair Witch Project, my love of the Holly Valance action film DOA and my absolute apathy towards George Lucas’ fiddling with the original Star Wars saga.

My more recent battles have been regarding my dislike of a lot of these post millennial ghost movies. I am no great fan of ghost stories anyway as I don’t have a great belief in the supernatural, particularly ghosts. Of all these ghost movies that have come out the only one that I really enjoyed was the Ethan Hawke vehicle Sinister, but as far as the Insidious series and these Conjuring films, including Annabelle, well, I’m not a fan.

(I will hold one caveat to the previous statement: I did really dig the initial ghostly j-horror films like Ring and The Grudge when they first came out, but the ‘wet girl’ ghost became old quite quickly)

The Conjuring 2 is another adventure of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), ghost hunter/ psychic investigator/ exorcists who in this instalment travel to rainy Ol’ England in 1977 to help the Hodgson family. 

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in The Conjuring 2


Janet (Madison Wolfe) and Margaret (Lauren Esposito), the two daughters, decide to play, one night, with a witch board and accidentally bring out the horrible spirit of a man named Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) who decides to torture them, their brothers (Benjamin Haigh and Patrick McAuley) and their single mother, Peggy (Frances O’Conner)… or does he not even exist?

The Warrens are recently accused of being charlatans after an investigation of the Amityville house, and can’t be seen, as agents of the church, to be involved in any sort of chicanery… but is the evil in the house even MORE clever than first suspected..?

Straight up I have to compliment Wilson and Farmiga for their excellent performances. They are the rocks in the middle of the entire tale and are just so well cast and perform with so much conviction and they are a pleasure to watch. Add O’Conner to that mix and you have a pretty solid central cast. The kids are mostly all great though one of the young characters is supposed to have a stutter, and rather than be a realistic stutter, it sounds more like lines from Morris Minor and the Major’s Stutter Rap. 

On a personal side note I have to say I was delighted to see Anatomie and Creep’s Franka Potente back. I feel like I haven’t seen her in years!

The spooky nun from The Conjuring 2


James Wan’s direction is quite good, and there are some clever camera tricks, and what felt like an occasional tribute to older horror films… I kept getting a Hammer Horror vibe at times… and in general it had a pretty cool, cold creepy feel to it. 

There were two epic missteps that I found a shame though. One was the realisation of a ‘Crooked Man’ character who seemed too cartoony for the look of the film, and the final reveal, which I won’t explore for spoiler reasons, was just a little generic.

A small shoutout to the soundtrack as well. The ghostly incidental music is perfectly juxtaposed with music of the time, which both set the scares and the period. I’ve no doubt this soundtrack will end up in my collection.

The story was OK and whilst I am still not convinced by ghostly movies, I did quite enjoy this but it was about performance rather than the tale. It was a improvement of the first Conjuring, and a galaxy away from the bursting gall bladder that was Annabelle.

Score: ***


Format: As one would expect a modern film in a modern format looks excellent. The Conjuring 2 review copy is an Australian region B which goes for approximately 134 minutes and is presented in 2.40:1 with a Dolby Atmos 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a pretty good bunch of extras on this, the shame is none of them run for very long.

Crafting the Conjuring as you may guess by the name, is a making-of deal, and is brief, but interesting.

The Enfield Poltergeist: Living the Horror investigates the ‘real’ case of the Enfield Incident, including interviews with the now-adult sisters that the film portrays, and Lorraine Warren herself! 

Creating Crooked explains the invention and execution of the Crooked Man character, which I reckon would have been a cool make up effect and creature, but not in this film. Here he just seems to be a tacked on scare, which suits no purpose other than that,

The Conjuring 2: Hollywood’s Haunted Stage looks at paranormal investigator Johnny Matook and his investigation of one of Warner Bros soundstages which is apparently haunted. It’s pretty stupid and essentially a waste of disc space.

The Sounds of Scary checks out the score. Being a soundtrack nut I was excited to watch this, and was only disappointed by the brevity of it. I mean, horror soundtrack featurettes usually hit the same notes: it’s moody, scary, etc. I guess I might be a frustrated musician.

Deleted scenes are as occasionally correct in their absence from the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: Like I said, I’m not really a fan of ghost movies, so I’ll only watch this again if my family, who love these sorts of movies, want to watch it, otherwise it’s a dust gatherer.