Allison Williams in Killer Doll Horror – The Hollywood Reporter

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Director Gerard Johnstone and screenwriter Akela Cooper have had their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks since the beginning of M3GAN, a satirical tale of treacherous technology in which the shocks and scares and even warning notes are not lessened by the pleasant vein of over-the-top humor. While the comparison with child’s play and Annabelle movies seem inevitable, the malevolent agents in these franchises are clearly puppets. The Generative Android Model 3 known as M3GAN, on the other hand, is a humanoid realistic enough to be subversive and frightening, echoing insta AI classics like ex machina.

Given that horror fans are among the most reliable demographics to return to the multiplex post-pandemic, Universal should be able to count on a sizable young audience for this cheeky chiller of Blumhouse and James Wan’s Atomic Monster. It won’t hurt that while M3GAN is styled like a ’70s flight attendant, she’s also a quintessential mean girl in the Regina George mold who could fit perfectly into any teen sitcom whose intelligence you downplay on your own and risk.

M3GAN

Conclusion

Problems in the land of toys.

Release date of: Friday, January 6
Throw: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Stephane Garneau-Monten, Lori Dungey
Principal: Gerard Johnstone
screenwriter: Akela Cooper; Cooper’s story, James Wan

Rated PG-13, 1 hour and 42 minutes

Right off the bat, the creative team told us that it’s okay to laugh, starting with what could almost be a saturday night live spoof commercial about the main advantage of pet robots over real animals – they don’t die. The product announced by the toy company Funki is a PurRpetual Pet, a googly-eyed troll-like furball that can talk and eat, as well as fart and shit fluffy balls.

Ever since 8-year-old Cady (Violet McGraw) received one of the robotic pets as a birthday present from her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), her parents have been concerned about the amount of time the little girl spends operating the gadget through her. iPad. But her attempt to provide other distractions on a ski trip is interrupted by a head-on collision with a snow truck. Gemma is given temporary protective custody and Cady goes to stay with her aunt in the Seattle suburbs.

Orphaned Cady is understandably traumatized and unwilling to bond. But she perks up when she sees Gemma’s college robotics project, Bruce, in action in a brief appearance that serves as a foreshadowing for later when the massive AI contraption will come in handy.

Coding expert Gemma leads Funki’s robotics team, where the combative CEO David (Ronny Chieng) is leaning on them to create a cheaper PurRpetual Pet option, as their competitors are undermining them with fraudulent models. David is unimpressed with the expensive M3GAN side project when she fails during a premature demo, telling them to shut down the “cyborg puppet show”. But Gemma, faced with Cady’s grief and her own lack of parenting skills, forges ahead, bringing M3GAN home to play. Bad movement.

David changes his mind about developing the M3GAN line when he observes the 4-foot doll interacting with Cady. This hilarious scene involves the robot creating a spitting portrait of Cady with a few quick strokes and just two colors of highlighter pens. “Will it cost more or less than a Tesla?” is David’s only question, before declaring, “Let’s kick Hasbro’s dick!”

At first, Gemma doesn’t realize the dangers of her niece’s new mate. She ignores a therapist’s warning about attachment theory, as well as the concerns of her colleague Tess (Jen Van Epps), who reminds her that M3GAN is meant to be a tool to support traditional parenting, not replace it. But M3GAN’s programming is stronger in constant pursuit of self-improvement than parental control, so the doll’s solemn duty to protect Cady from any threat soon yields casualties.

New Zealander Johnstone, who already displayed a funny sense of humor in his 2014 feature film debut recluse at home, strikes a fun balance between comedy and carnage in the kills, and knows how to heighten the suspense while fueling the laughs. The pace in the early stages may be stiffer, but the story develops satisfyingly as M3GAN starts to realize its full potential and Anthony Willis’s score shifts from foreboding mode to full-scale alarm.

Much of the fun comes from M3GAN’s increasing precociousness as she begins to question Gemma’s authority and shows a hint of resentment whenever she is shut down. Screenwriter Akela Cooper (Malignant, the nun 2), working from a story she developed with Wan, gives the AI ​​doll the speech patterns of a contemporary smart-ass teenager – cool and with a petulant defiance subtly embedded in every line, growing more ferocious as she discovers how to become your own user principal.

The cast, particularly Williams and McGraw as the two main figures initially on opposite sides of the M3GAN conflict, do whatever is required of them in terms of reacting to the growing chaos. But this is a movie where the deliciously menacing doll steals every scene.

The visual effects work to bring M3GAN to life – done at Peter Jackson’s Weta facility in New Zealand – is top notch. But it would be nothing without the physical impersonation of dancer Amie Donald and the voice work (including some gloriously cheesy songs) by Jenna Davis. M3GAN is fascinating to watch, whether she’s looking out the window with unnerving intent, busting out some contortionist movements, or simply tilting her head in a sudden tilt that induces both shivers and giggles.

Aside from its commentary on the pervasiveness of technology in modern parenting, the film’s critique of corporate culture is amusing, with Chieng and Stephane Garneau-Monten as David’s slighted lackey injecting understated silliness that doesn’t spare them harm.

Shuffling the story between the domestic chaos caused by M3GAN and the company’s preparations for its launch into the live-streaming market provides narrative texture and allows for some fantastic scenes where the doll rebels, causing her to leave in a conveniently parked sports car. That’s before things get really awful at home, where she makes her presence known as Gemma with a few bars on the piano and then sings a chorus of “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” to a panicked Cady.

M3GAN it may be too funny to be terrifying, but it’s never too silly to cause tension and raw emotions. It seems like a safe bet that the killer doll will make a return, not to mention become a highly sought-after costume come Halloween.

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