M3GAN, directed by Gerard Johnstone, is more than just a collection of gif-worthy android dances and NFL halftime displays. Let’s do .M3GAN Review.
The writer of 2021’s madcap Malignant, Akela Cooper, teams up with the director of 2014’s haunted-hilarious Housebound to create an AI thriller that borders on comedy while surpassing 2019’s bad remake of Child’s Play.
M3GAN perfectly captures the ambiance of American Girl meets American Psycho, which draws attention to a robot’s binary, soulless appraisal of human foibles while still managing to fit in some memorable scary entertainment.
Anticipate M3GAN to launch the genre scene of 2023 with an out-of-the-box fun villain that does it all, but don’t expect perfection between the story’s flatter storytelling tactics that clumsily push through family drama or how humor trumps the dolly-damndest frights.
Gemma, played by Allison Williams, is a workaholic roboticist at a toy firm whose newest pet project for employer Funki is placed on hold after a natural calamity. After Gemma’s niece Cady (Violet McGraw) is orphaned in a snow plow accident, she takes her in as her legal guardian.
Cooper’s script examines the effects of parental death on adolescents through the story of Gemma and Cady, in which the former recruits the latter to beta-test her innovation. Gemma shows Cady her artificial intelligence (AI) super toy M3GAN (voiced by Jenna Davis and played by Amie Donald), who acts as a best friend, caretaker, and teacher all in one and has more intelligence than a Furby.
To Gemma and Funki CEO David’s (Ronny Chieng) joy, Cady and M3GAN create an unbreakable friendship just before things go all Small Soldiers, Child’s Play, [insert more toys gone bad movies here].
M3GAN aims to be a cautionary story about the 21st century’s infatuation with technology through the viewpoint of a professional woman forced into parenting due to unforeseen circumstances. Williams and Violet McGraw, who plays a small but mighty figure, deliberately isolate themselves from one other in the hope that M3GAN will come to their rescue.
Cooper alludes to Gemma’s fatal neglect of Cady in a world where iPads parent children, a scenario made possible by M3GAN’s programmed services beyond friendship and discreetly chastised by Gemma’s employee Tess (Jen Van Epps).
It’s very 2020s that two people would instead communicate with a computer program than deal with their feelings about Cady’s unfathomable loss and Gemma’s world-turned-dismay. Their mothers’ anxiety remains constant as Williams and McGraw’s displeasure grows during mealtime fights or car seat tantrums.
However, M3GAN has difficulties as an adoption drama, where New Mom and Obstinate Daughter argue about their painful life changes. Even though the film’s pacing keeps us waiting for M3GAN’s shenanigans to begin, the character never fully unhinges until the end.
Character-driven interludes feel slower, stifling pace between M3GAN’s progression from attentive supercomputer to feisty A.I. killer. Still, Johnstone is so skilled at melding horror with comedy that it’s hard to tell which. Blumhouse’s decision to reshoot parts of M3GAN to maintain the film’s PG-13 rating isn’t a dealbreaker.
Still, it does lessen the film’s already diminished focus on nightmare scares compared to films like Drag Me to Hell and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, both of which also have PG-13 ratings. While it succeeds as a slick piece of techno-horror parody, the film’s balance between the malicious manipulation by M3GAN, the emotional stakes, and the stunning killer doll scares never quite clicks.
M3GAN is a behemoth of terror, from her titanium frame to her almost human mannerisms, complete with unsettling glitches. As much as Jenna Davis’ lulling Disney Channel voice, Johnstone’s eccentric tastes highlight M3GAN’s good-girl exterior (he proposed her famed hallway dance choreography, after all).
The filmmaking cleverly contrasts M3GAN’s diminutive stature against his older victims, creating a bad image of a murderer through looming shadows or veiled appearances. Furthermore, Amie Donald’s convincing performance as a sociopath with several personalities is bolstered by the body actor’s ability to switch between automatic and savage assault modes with ease.
It takes a community to bring M3GAN to life, and together they will build him to become one of 2023’s most memorable horror icons.
This year’s winter horror season has been brought to you by M3GAN.
When Johnstone does what Johnstone does best (see Housebound if you don’t believe me), M3GAN is invincible. Ronny Chieng delivers hilarious one-liners as a cocky employee at a toy firm who gets overly enthusiastic and threatens to “kick Hasbro in the dick.”
Cooper retains from Malignant, and Johnstone gratefully acknowledges that M3GAN was never supposed to be played straight. Johnstone enjoys the apocalyptic implications of the concept when A.I. turns against its makers, which becomes more apparent as M3GAN’s sly looks and snarky threats become more apparent.
The more M3GAN can convince Cady of her superior friendship directive, the sooner we will be treated to Sia’s extravagant deathbed serenades and M3GAN’s exquisitely bonkers new character. Was it me, or did M3GAN play “Toy Soldiers” by Martika on the piano when he and Gemma argued? When things like this happen, M3GAN becomes what it is.
#M3GAN was shockingly good 😂
Review tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/AnOpWWZnAv
— Grace Randolph (@GraceRandolph) January 4, 2023
As a return to horror movies from the indie filmmaker turned prolific TV director, Ti West’s X is as magnificent and evil as anyone could ask for. X was rated an 8 out of 10 in IGN’s official review, while I give it a 9. West’s kind of modern slasher, which draws inspiration from various sources like Giallo and sleazeploitation films of the 1970s, is masterfully chaotic.
It’s easily one of A24’s best horror movies, with all the sweltering southern terrorization of films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and plenty of excessive but oh-so-slick gore.
All of the actors’ outstanding performances make X stand out. Without a doubt, Jenna Ortega has had the scariest year, yet she is only a tiny part of X’s gory whole. Playing pornographers attempting to raise the bar, actors like Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Mia Goth, and much more shine in their respective roles.
Characters are given agency beyond simple stereotypes, and West has a great time comparing horror to pornography in terms of public perception. I mean, what’s not to appreciate about a sex-positive slasher that swings a big ego and delivers as promised?
The Menu is a biting satire on the “creative” culture, thanks to Mark Mylod’s excellent remark on the unhealthy triangle of art, creator, and consumer. Ralph Fiennes’s portrayal of Julian Slowik, the celebrity crazy chef, and owner of the Hawthorne restaurant on the private island of Castillo de San Cristobal, is a mystery even to him.
The restaurant patrons (played by Nicholas Hoult, Anya Taylor-Joy, John Leguizamo, and others) think they’re in for a special treat. Still, instead, they’re served a tasting menu of hypocrisy, martyrdom, and anguish. Experts in fine dining, such as food stylist Dominique Crenn and Chef’s Table director David Gelb work together to guarantee that each elaborate dish is filmed with the utmost precision and style.
All of that is a charade to hide Slowik’s true agenda, which has already decided the fate of him, his staff, and his customers. Fiennes shines as the militant Michelin star chef who has lost his heart for his arduous vocation, and Taylor-Joy also deserves her Golden Globe nomination.
Slowik’s Hawthorne stands in for the entire creative industry as writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy skewer the pretenders, the masochists, and the snobbish tastemakers. This isn’t a nuanced move, but perhaps I’ve had enough of nuance. The Menu brings the tension to a boil and is brutally funny, making it a strong candidate for best of the year.
The Black Phone is another horror masterpiece from Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. An official IGN review gave The Black Phone a 9 out of 10 and concluded, “The Black Phone mixes the supernatural with relatable horrors in ways that will leave you both horrified and hopeful.”
That optimism caught me off guard because Ethan Hawke’s child abductor, “The Grabber,” is one cruel son of a gun. The performances by Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, both of whom play children, are so convincing that audiences can’t help but feel optimistic about the kids’ future.
Derrickson’s command over the basement of The Grabber is assured and transformative, demonstrating the immense power of direction for The Black Phone. When Thames’s victim investigates the room for clues to his or her escape, the space seems vast; when The Grabber appears downstairs, it feels cramped.
Throw in some ghostly horrors and Tom Savini’s extraordinary mask designs, and you have a crowd-pleasing horror movie that deserves accolades. That’s hardly shocking coming from the minds behind Sinister.
Communion, Part 2 of Satan’s Slaves
Do we have a year-end horror list if Joko Anwar isn’t on it? The follow-up to Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves, a recreation of an old-school Indonesian horror film, is titled Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion. Here we reunite with the cursed family from Satan’s Slaves, now residing in Northern Jakarta and still haunted by the events of that book. Moving the surviving family from the countryside to an apartment complex doesn’t protect them from paranormal and occult fears, especially because there is now additional collateral damage around the complex.
Few contemporary horror filmmakers can compete with James Wan and Mike Flanagan, but Anwar is one of them. When the power goes out in the middle of a rainstorm, Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion knows how to exploit the darkness to your advantage.
Anwar’s style and approach increase the hunger all horror lovers feel, soaking settings in fear and going above and beyond to avoid being merely another haunted home film. Although anyone can use Wan’s examples as a starting point, very few can match up to the quality of his work. Few people can compete with Anwar for the title of “Modern Horror Master,” but his work in Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion confirms he deserves that title.
Between Get Out and Us, Jordan Peele is no stranger to “Best of” horror lists, and Nope follows suit. It’s Peele riffing on The Twilight Zone in a Spielbergian sci-fi setting, and it’s fantastic.
With his third feature film, Nope, Jordan Peele has established himself as a champion of the kind of grand spectacle films that made the phrase “Event Horror” obsolete. On the surface, this appears to be a hilarious and suspenseful UFO mystery for audiences.
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, and Steven Yeun, “Hoop Dreams” delves into the dark pasts of Hollywood’s marginalized communities. Meanwhile, Peele keeps us in awe of the alien menace by highlighting our uncomfortable relationship with eyewear.
Away from the more apparent social commentary of Get Out and Us, Peele operates with a directorial voice that is among the most distinctive in modern horror. We gave the film a 9 out of 10 in our official evaluation because we have faith in Peele.
Zach Cregger’s debut is one of the most talked-about horror movies of the year. Because of the limits, Cregger pushes, “WTF Horror” isn’t as popular as it once was in the mainstream. You never know where Barbarian will go next; this story has elements of an Airbnb thriller, a creature film, and a Pleasantville serial murder scenario. Like [redacted, you’ll have to see] Cregger has viewers wondering until their heads explode from astonishment.
Everything a barbarian might want is at his disposal. Fears of a rental share gone awry are brought to light by Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgard. Cregger utilizes the arrival of Justin Long as a Hollywood A-lister at the center of a scandal as fodder for his scathing “cancel culture” comedy.
The psychological anguish is then traded for the gruesome B-movie joy of, say, a sensationally intense basement horror set in a network of tunnels reminiscent of catacombs. What’s the length of the tape? This is one of the year’s best horror scenes, and it doesn’t even happen at the movie’s climax.
For the most part (and occasionally), M3GAN is as good as the internet had promised it would be before its debut. Gerard Johnstone was the right man for the job as director, and Akela Cooper makes some interesting story-based forays into the distractions of modern technology, but you’re here for M3GAN.
That’s why, even though it takes away from the parts where she’s rendered superfluous, she shines as the title character, a tyrant ready to rumble in the name of hardcoded primary user love. As the reason for the winter horror season, M3GAN forces Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, and the rest of the cast to share the spotlight for brief periods (Williams anchors scene after scene).
A new genre celebrity is born out of motherboards and bloodshed in a film that could have used to be trimmed down a bit but still has some good “horrortainment” moments.