What happens when you take some biting commentary on the state of children’s toys, AI, and how we interact with technology and cross that with a horror movie? Well, it turns out that when you add those things together and some great performances from the three leads, you get M3GAN.

M3GAN is the latest horror effort from the tandem of Blumhouse and Universal. The idea comes from the mind of James Wan, and it bridges the gap nicely between some really hilarious comedic elements and true terror. From the time we all saw the trailer, M3GAN was going to be a star. The movie affirms that belief, and while some of the funniest moments are in the trailer, we get some great ones for the full movie.

M3GAN was directed by Gerard Johnstone, written by Akela Cooper, and the story is by James Wan. It stars Allison Williams as Gemma, Violet McGraw as Cady, and Ronny Chieng. The physical performance of M3GAN is Amie Donald, and M3GAN’s voice is Jenna Davis. That distinction is important because M3GAN is so incredibly imposing and terrifying. Her physical performance and mannerisms matter just as much as her voice delivering the lines. It’s a fantastic performance that blends two performers perfectly into one role.

A PG-13 Rating Doesn’t Sink M3GAN

As much as we’d all like to see M3GAN tearing people limb from limb and doing it in style, we don’t get that in this cut. The PG-13 rating allows the director and audience to sort of imagine the violence and brutality on screen. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great moments where M3GAN does some messed up stuff to people, but it’s left up to your imagination. It plays out a lot like Child’s Play where the acts of bloodshed happen gradually and builds towards a titanic conclusion.

If we can compare M3GAN to anything, it’s Chucky and Child’s Play. Instead of getting taken over by the vengeful, dying spirit of a murderer, M3GAN is an AI created by Gemma (Allison Williams) for a new toy. Cady (Violet McGraw) gets caught up in the whole situation because her parents both died in an accident and Gemma is her guardian now.

McGraw does an excellent job of playing a kid who’s gone through the worst possible situation imaginable. She’s unhinged at times and vulnerable at others, and her transformation alongside M3GAN makes the movie as good as it is. Allison Williams holds the entire thing together giving some material that would be overly techy/scientific sounding a bit of humanity. Her slow realization that M3GAN is not what she seems is the backbone of the second act of the movie.

The film builds up to a third-act conclusion that is fist-pump-inducingly awesome. We get a confrontation and a payoff to something from the beginning of the movie that’s a sight to behold in a horror movie like this. Universal can’t make this into a Halloween Horror Nights house, fast enough.

What M3GAN Could Have Had More Of

The only thing that keeps M3GAN from that absolute upper pantheon of horror flicks is that it doesn’t give us enough. The movie runs 1 hour and 42 minutes, but it felt like there could have been a couple more kills in the film. We get some nice ones, but one of them the audience is basically rooting for it (you’ll know when you see it), and the others come on pretty quickly. Outside of those, the film burns a bit slower.

Outside of that quibble, M3GAN does a great job with pacing, performances, and doling out the scares. There are only a few moments with jump scares, but the rest is really nicely atmospheric and builds up to a scare. Of course, it sets up for a sequel, because this is a horror movie. However, it doesn’t feel cheap and sets up that sequel throughout the film, not just in a “last glimpse at the killer” way.

The humor in M3GAN is natural and had the audience howling at how awkward and sort of cringe some of the moments are. It’s smart and biting in the commentary it dishes out. For that, M3GAN adds more than just cheap thrills. This movie is a real winner for all involved. Now when do we get M3GAN VS. Chucky?

M3GAN releases in theaters on January 6th, 2023.

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