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M3GAN - Everything You Need To Know

Cinematically speaking, the year 2023 promises to be an impressive one, especially when it comes to the horror genre. M. Night Shyamalan is going to deliver some apocalyptic thrills with "Knock at the Cabin," and vampire fans will get to slake their blood lust with the comedy "Renfield" and a new adaptation of Stephen King's "'Salem's Lot." As for awesome sequels, Ghostface will return with "Scream 6," the Deadites are coming back with "Evil Dead Rise," Valak will scare audiences everywhere with "The Nun 2," and Ellen Burstyn and Leslie Odom Jr. will star in David Gordon Green's "Exorcist" sequel.

But before we get all these terrifying treats, "M3GAN" kicked off 2023's horror path. It's got the haunted doll feel that makes the likes of Chucky so frightening. And with a story focusing on a young girl surrounded by tragedy and a murderous doll, fans of the genre know that putting a kid with a non-human companion usually ends in catastrophe. The film takes an exciting approach to the malfunctioning artificial intelligence trope, melding "The Terminator" with "Annabelle." "M3GAN" was released in theaters on January 6 and is still getting lots of buzz. Here's everything you need to know about the horror flick.

What is the plot of M3GAN?

"M3GAN" tells the story of a young girl, Cady, who loses both of her parents in a horrible accident. She's adopted by her aunt, Gemma, a woman who isn't quite prepared to take on the responsibility of a child, let alone one who's been as traumatized as Cady. To help the young girl cope with the loss of her family and the repercussions of being isolated at such a young age, Gemma — who earns her living as a roboticist — introduces her niece to a project she's been working on. This project is a "toy" that can act as a child's best friend, a companion that's supposed to chase away loneliness or any other negative emotion.

Gemma calls this toy Model Three Generative Android, aka M3GAN. Once the two are introduced to one another, Cady becomes very attached to the eerily lifelike doll. M3GAN seems to be capable of free will so long as her decisions are always in service to her mission — to protect Cady and ensure that she's always happy. However, as Cady grows more attached to M3GAN, there are concerns of her becoming too codependent on the android. But when you've got an advanced piece of machinery like M3GAN running around, codependency is the least of your concerns.

M3GAN becomes increasingly aggressive in her pursuit of caring for Cady, ignoring commands from the woman who created her and even attacking a child she catches harassing Cady. M3GAN looks to be a growing problem throughout the film, with her fierce protectiveness spiraling into outright murder, setting up a showdown between Cady, Gemma, and the killer doll.

Who stars in M3GAN?

When it comes to the character of Gemma, the filmmakers behind "M3GAN" decided to cast someone who's no stranger to frightening films. The protagonist is played by Allison Williams, perhaps best known to horror fans as the disturbing, manipulative, milk-loving Rose Armitage from "Get Out." She also starred in one of Netflix's most upsetting movies, the controversial body horror film "The Perfection." 

Needless to say, Gemma will be a far different character from "Get Out's" Rose. She appears to be a loving but ill-equipped aunt who's doing her best to help Cady, even if that does involve inadvertently unleashing a murder droid upon the world. 

As for poor Caddy, that part is played by the incredibly talented Violet McGraw, a young actor who has plenty of horror experience herself. She starred as the young version of Nell in Mike Flanagan's Netflix series "The Haunting of Hill House," and she collaborated with the director again in "Doctor Sleep," where she played the young girl in the opening of the film who falls prey to the vampiric True Knot clan. Even if you aren't a huge horror fan, chances are good you're familiar with McGraw, as she starred as a young Yelena Belova in "Black Widow."

But who plays the titular killer doll herself? Well, the role goes to two different actors. Jenna Davis voices M3GAN, and you may know her from series like "Raven's Home," "Scarlett's Lab," "Vampirina," and "Treehouse Detectives." While Davis will be delivering the lines, Amie Donald actually plays M3GAN. The young actress only has one credit to date — she was in Netflix's "Sweet Tooth" — but she's a talented dancer who was trained for the role by Luke Hawker and Jed Brophy (via Newshub), two actors who specialize in playing creepy creatures with strange movements, notably orcs in various "Lord of the Rings" properties.

Who directed M3GAN?

With the emergence of filmmakers like Jordan Peele and Zach Cregger, there seems to be a trend of comedians shifting their talents over to horror. It honestly makes a lot of sense when you think about it — as horror author Joe R. Lansdale once put it (via Houston Public Media), "I think that horror and humor are opposite sides of the same coin. Something that's really horrifying is actually kind of humorous if you look at it from a different angle, and it's the same in reverse." 

When it comes to this trend of funny filmmakers going in a scarier direction, we also have to bring up director Gerard Johnstone, the man behind "M3GAN." Johnstone's roots are in the world of New Zealand comedy, as he worked on TV shows like "The Jaquie Brown Diaries," "Terry Teo," and "The New Legends of Monkey." However, in 2014, he began to get a bit spookier with his first feature film, the horror-comedy "Housebound," a film inspired by "Ghosthunters" (via Austin Chronicle), where a dysfunctional family must deal with the spirits inhabiting their home.

Johnstone earned quite a few award nominations for his work on "Housebound" from the likes of Fangoria, Fright Meter, and the SXSW Film Festival, with his movie winning best feature at the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival. And now, Johnstone is returning to the horror genre with "M3GAN." While it might not be uproariously funny like some of his early works, it definitely seems like it's going to go in some bizarre and humorous directions, especially when it comes to M3GAN's ability to boogey while murdering everyone in sight.

Who wrote M3GAN?

One of the reasons horror fans are so excited about "M3GAN" is because of who penned the screenplay. Akela Cooper has been busy in the writing world for quite a while, working on shows like "Grimm," "The 100," and "Luke Cage." Her first script to be turned into a feature film was "Hell Fest," the 2018 story of a slasher on the loose at a horror-themed amusement park. However, it was her next feature film that would truly put Cooper on the map.

In 2021, viewers were treated to "Malignant," an absolutely bonkers horror movie directed by James Wan. If you haven't seen "Malignant" yet, stop what you're doing and check it out. A film that feels like Dario Argento mashed up with Chad Stahelski, "Malignant" was one of the craziest horror films in years, and those who dug its bizarro vibe are incredibly psyched to see what weirdness Cooper has cooked up this time.

Who produced M3GAN?

Speaking of "Malignant," that film was helmed by the one and only James Wan, the horror legend known for the creation of "The Conjuring," the first two "Insidious" films, and the original "Saw." With Wan's involvement as a producer on "M3GAN," it's no wonder that people have been comparing the 2023 film to "Malignant," especially thanks to the similarities between the complex, Matrix-like choreography displayed in "Malignant" and the unnatural way in which "M3GAN" moves.

Of course, Wan isn't the only terrifying titan producing this upcoming flick. Jason Blum, the man behind Blumhouse Productions, is also co-producing the film. Blumhouse's fingerprints are all over the modern-day horror genre, as the banner has released incredibly scary and influential movies like "Get Out," "The Invisible Man," "Happy Death Day," "Split," and long-running series like "The Purge," "Insidious," and "Paranormal Activity" (along with non-horror films like "Whiplash" and "BlacKkKlansman").

What is M3GAN rated?

When it comes to ratings, quite a few horror films boast the big, bad R. Some recent examples include slasher flick "Halloween Ends," the incredibly freaky "Smile," and Jordan Peele's sci-fi adventure "Nope." However, some of the scariest horror movies of all time are rated PG-13. "A Quiet Place," "Drag Me to Hell," and "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" all carry the more family-friendly rating, and they're all straight-up nightmare fuel.

Blumhouse Productions also has quite a few frightening PG-13 films, such as James Wan's "Insidious" and M. Night Shyamalan's "Split." And now, it looks like "M3GAN" is joining Blumhouse's PG-13 pantheon. According to FilmRatings.com, the upcoming robo-thriller earned the rating for "violent content and terror, some strong language, and a suggestive reference."

M3GAN goes on a bloody rampage, which is where you get the violent content and terror from, and there are a few harsh words here and there. Of course, with a PG-13 rating, while it might not pack the gore of a Michael Myers movie, the PG-13 rating helped "M3GAN" draw in a wider audience and bring in those big box office dollars.

How did M3GAN do at the box office?

According to Variety, "M3GAN" had a $45 million opening weekend, $30 million of which was from the domestic market. That's a remarkable cume for a horror film, especially after being projected to make between $17 and $20 million in the United States. The opening weekend more than covers the budget, which Variety noted was a small $12 million. "M3GAN" should continue to rake in the millions as January continues on.

These fantastic numbers also prove the theater experience is coming back in a big way. "M3GAN" is the first movie to earn over $30 million in the first week of the year since "The Devil Inside" (2012), which earned $33 million. January used to be a slow month for movies, but with "Avatar: The Way of Water" continuing to bring in millions and "M3GAN" making waves, it's not looking too shabby.

How did critics and audiences respond to M3GAN?

"M3GAN" is absolutely killing it with critics. The film currently boasts at 94% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, a far cry from fellow killer-doll flick "Annabelle," which received a 28% from critics. Looper's Alistair Ryder gave "M3GAN" a 7/10, calling the movie a great black comedy while noting the film also takes itself seriously. Ryder's only downfall — the movie doesn't have a surprise factor, and there's nothing too shocking along the way. 

The audience score for "M3GAN" sits a little bit lower, at a 79% at the time of this publication. Horror film fans take movies in the genre seriously, and a common comment on Rotten Tomatoes suggests the acting isn't A+. Others complained all the good parts were shown in the trailer, so maybe stay away from those if you haven't seen them yet. Nevertheless, most who have gone to see "M3GAN" like it a great deal and embrace its silliness. 

Will there be a M3GAN sequel?

We know what you're thinking: "How can you ask if there's going to be a 'M3GAN' sequel when the film hasn't even hit theaters yet?" It does seem a strange question on the surface, but really, it shouldn't be all that surprising. We live in a world dominated by IP — where studios are always on the lookout for the next big franchise. And it seems like the folks at Universal think they've found one with "M3GAN."

While Blumhouse is the production company behind "M3GAN," Universal is distributing the horror film. In an article detailing the very real possibility of Jason Blum and James Wan combining their production companies — Blumhouse and Atomic Monster — into one horror monolith, The New York Times reported, "Universal is so pleased with how 'M3GAN' turned out that it is already talking about a 'M3GAN' sequel. TikTok posts tagged #M3GAN have been viewed 300 million times since the trailer was released a month ago."

So it looks like a "M3GAN 2: Killer Doll Boogaloo" might be in the pipeline. That leaves us to wonder, will M3GAN survive the original film? Will she kill off the human protagonists? Or will she be defeated and then rise from the grave, Chucky-style? We can't wait to find out on January 6, 2023.