Allison Williams and Violet McGraw star in a thriller, directed by Gerard Johnstone.
Cleverly scripted and superbly directed, the newest killer doll on the block exceeds expectations.
With a screenplay by Akela Cooper, based on a story by Cooper and James Wan, it’s tempting to credit Wan entirely, which wouldn’t be fair to Cooper, who has some mighty fine IMDb credits. But it is hard to ignore Wan’s ventriloquist dummy movie, Dead Silence (2007), and his involvement as producer with demonic doll movie Annabelle (2014) and its sequels.
All the ‘killer doll’ movies from the past, including Wan’s, are implicitly acknowledged in
M3GAN, which assumes that audiences have come to the movie with certain expectations in mind and then leads everyone on a merry ride that eventually gets quite violent, mitigated by the decision to keep to a PG-13 rating, which limits explicit depictions, but not all the flowing blood. Before that happens, though, the film has developed convincing motivations for the three main characters.
Allison Williams, who played a character who wasn’t who she appeared to be in Jordan Peele’s horror smash Get Out (2017) here essays a brilliant robotics engineer, named Gemma, who is thrust into the unexpected role of caretaker for her niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), whose parents have just died in an automobile accident. As it happens, Gemma is at a crisis point in her career, and is already carrying a heavy load of stress and responsibility.
From all appearances, being a mother is something that Gemma has never considered or wanted up to this point in her life, but she feels tremendous guilt, more than sorrow, over her sister’s death, and feels obligated to accept the role of temporary caretaker for Cady, who obviously is far more weighed down by grief, to the point that the shy and quiet girl has practically become catatonic.
Gemma unexpectedly provides a solution for Cady, as well as a new companion who only appears to be lifelike, until, darn it, she follows the path of many, many robots in the past who have broken Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Getting there is much of the fun, of course, and so spoiling any more of the plot would be unkind.
Instead, I’ll point to director Gerard Johnstone, who first came on my radar with his feature directorial debut, Housebound (2014), which quite successfully balanced horror and comedy. He also helmed the terrific, family-friendly adventure The New Legends of Monkey series on Netflix, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Mix those two together, enhanced with Allison Williams’ excellent performance, the excellent effects work, top-notch production values, and a sense of humor about the whole thing, and you might have M3GAN, who will always love you, as long as you play along.
The film opens today in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities, via Universal Pictures. For more information about the film, visit the official site.