M3GAN

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Thriller;
Box Office $95.04 million;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violent content and terror, some strong language and a suggestive reference. Unrated version also included.
Stars Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Stephane Garneau-Monten, Lori Dungey, Amy Usherwood, Amie Donald, Jenna Davis.

Supernaturally possessed murderous dolls are nothing new in the horror genre, but M3GAN adds a sci-fi element to the trope to set-up a truly creepy glimpse into the ever-expanding field of artificial intelligence and humanity’s over-reliance on technology.

The story involves a young girl named Cady (Violet McGraw) whose parents are killed in a car accident. She’s sent to live with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), a roboticist who designs high-tech toys. Since Gemma is basically a female version of Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory,” she doesn’t have much of a social life or any idea how to relate to kids. So when Cady responds well to some robots in her workshop, Gemma is inspired to complete a prototype of a robotic doll designed to be the ultimate companion for a child — the Model 3 Generative Android, or M3GAN for short.

M3GAN is paired with Cady to help her cope with her loss, and the two become inseparable. However, M3GAN’s adaptive programming designed to help her bond with children leads her to become overly aggressive toward anything or anyone she deems a threat toward Cady. And thus, mayhem ensues.

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According to the bonus materials, the simple yet effective premise can be partially attributed to producer James Wan, the creator of the “Conjuring” franchise that features its own supernatural doll, Annabelle. Challenged to come up with a doll that could inflict damage through physical menace rather than magical vibes, his response was what would become M3GAN.

The film also touches on a motif of parents screwing up their kids by giving them too much access to technology as a substitute for discipline and emotional bonding.

The screenplay does a pretty good job of establishing the setting, so attentive viewers will have a pretty good idea of how the general story arcs will unfold. Any surprises served up by the film come less by way of how things end up and more in some of the details of getting there, particularly once M3GAN decides to embark on her inevitable killing rampage.

In that regard M3GAN joins some pretty heavy hitters, from typical movie AI that conclude it must kill anyone who might interfere with completing its primary directive — as in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Avengers: Age of Ultron — to killer dolls such as Chucky from Child’s Play or Talky Tina from “The Twilight Zone.” Seeing M3GAN unfold kind of brings to mind a parody of that “Twilight Zone” episode from a classic “Simpsons” Halloween sketch in which the problem with the killer doll turns out to be that someone flipped its switch from “Good” to “Evil.”

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The M3GAN Blu-ray includes an unrated version that is essentially the same movie, but adds a few extra seconds of gore and some effectively placed swear words.

There are also three short featurettes about the making of the film. The six-minute “A New Vision of Horror” focuses on the development of the concept; the five-minute “Bringing Life to M3GAN” looks at the puppetry used to depict the title character; and the four-minute “Getting Hacked” explores the creation of the film’s horror scenes.

‘Horizon Line’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 16

The thriller Horizon Line will come out on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 16 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

It is available now on digital.

In the film, former couple Sara (Allison Williams, Get Out, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”) and Jackson (Alexander Dreymon, “The Last Kingdom,” “American Horror Story”) board a single-engine plane for a routine and casual flight to their friend’s tropical island wedding. However, within minutes of takeoff, their pilot suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving them with no idea where they are, and no clue how to land the plane. With nothing but miles of ocean and sky in every direction, and a terrifying storm that’s about to envelop them, Sara and Jackson have only one shot — and there’s no going back.

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Extras include deleted scenes.