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Film Reviews by Lisa Blanck
| Monday, 01.09.2023, 04:25 AM |   (384 views)

The movie-going public is all abuzz about the Blumhouse feature, M3GAN, opening this weekend. It's the production house's most recent theatrical horror-comedy, and takes the classic Chucky series of deliciously devilish dolls to a higher plain of animatronic abomination. Obviously, this 'horo-com' or possibly 'horomedy', has high aspirations. However, this reviewer found it more of a Psych 101 on really bad parenting skills, with a few laughs, than a horror flick.

After being the only survivor of a head-on collision that killed her parents, a young girl finds herself living with her single, pet-less, plant-less, childless aunt. Cady (Violet McGraw), obviously shell-shocked, suffused with anger and grief, now has to learn to cope with her losses in an alien, though not totally unfriendly, environment.

Her Aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), is employed as a designer of robotic toys at a firm that, among other wares, creates, markets and sells Furby-like 'pets' to the general public. The 'pets' are wildly successful. Cady was actually playing with one sent to her by Gemma when the fatal accident occurred.

However, Gemma and her team appear to have zero personal interactional experiences with children, other than having each been one themselves. Gemma has toys in her home, but the toys are collectibles that were created at her place of employment and are most certainly NOT to be played with. Team Gemma is being pushed to create a cheaper model of their original, so the knock-off competitors can't claim part of the market.

In a funny-but-quick bit that makes every Alexa owner snicker and nod, we are told that each 'pet' hears, records and telegraphs back to toy HQ any conversations that their 'owners' have. This helps the design team pinpoint their marketing and increase sales. Of course, in the film, the Furby team publicly denies that they're eavesdropping on children. The bit mimics the IRL statement that Alexa developers repeat ad nauseam, that no one at Amazon is 'listening'; a statement no one who owns any Alexa-integrated device believes, if they are even slightly observant.

We quickly learn that instead of working on their mass money-maker, Gemma spends most of her time secretly developing an animatronic doll that can 'pair' with its human. The M3GAN, Model 3 Generational Android, is supposed to befriend their human. Teach them. Help them with homework. Keep them out of trouble. Yes, do all the things that an actual parent is supposed to do.

You see where I'm going with this. Toys are supposed to support, not REPLACE, the time you spend with a child. We're not told exactly why Gemma's team is secretly developing a M3GAN, especially when they were told to shut down this extremely expensive creation. Is it ego, to be the first ones out of the gate with something new, revolutionary, groundbreaking? Sounds plausible.

But Gemma pushes on. So now we have M3GAN, who, once Cady's fingers and M3GAN's palm entwine, becomes 'aware' of her 'directive'. M3GAN immediately becomes more than a doll to Cady. She becomes her bestie, her confidant, her teacher of all things, good AND bad, quickly taking the place of Gemma herself as the one she trusts completely. Cady refuses to go anywhere without M3GAN, and her own inner demons start bubbling to the surface. Which, generally, pleases M3GAN.

M3GAN reveals herself to be an animal abuser. A torturer of children. A mocker of all authority figures. Ya know. The usual steppingstones of a psychopath. All in the name of 'protecting' Cady. Though it quickly becomes apparent that deviously sly M3GAN has developed unprogrammed ideas and desires all her own. There's no pushing this Genie back into her bottle.

But here's what is very much ignored by Gemma when she disastrously fast-tracked M3GAN. She paired a highly advanced, extremely strong robot with a child who is emotionally distraught and angry at the world. Cady lost both her parents and is confused and scared. She feels adrift. What if M3GAN is actually acting out the suppressed violence and rage that CADY is feeling?

Remember, none of the developers of M3GAN appear to have work-shopped their ideas with actual living children to understand how children respond when they're happy, sad, angry, hurt, lonely etc. The intended USER isn't part of the development process. A key engineering flaw that happens in many, many workplaces.

Further – Gemma's team suffers from the same dilemma facing all humans. Questionable morality. Questionable judgment. We're fallible. Humans, not the most moral, most compassionate, most generous of a species, really shouldn't be trusted when creating tools, or beings, in their image. Common movie trope alert – The Mad Scientist.

We humans are, intrinsically driven by our Id. The Id, according to Freud, is part of our primitive and instinctive personality/ unconscious that contains all our basic urges and impulses including our libido. Our libido is a sort of generalized sexual energy that, according to psychoanalysis, we use for everything from survival instincts, fight or flight, to appreciation of works of art or beauty. Survive. Fight. Things that are a primary directive for Gemma's M3GAN, but have taken on a life of their own. M3GAN is, basically, Id gone wild. And Gemma's team built her exactly that way, even though it was not their intention.

And even if you're not a Freudian, and you're a follower of B.F. Skinner's imprinting and behavioral psychological theories, we're led back to the fact that Cady is one very, VERY angry young child. So, should we blame M3GAN for the violence... or Cady? M3GAN eventually reveals herself to be no young Brownie; unless that Brownie earns badges by mutilating whatever pisses her off at that moment.

M3GAN, played by actress/stuntwoman Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis, is beautiful yet distinctly 'off', starting with her loose-bowtie ensemble. She has some truly insane physical scenes definitely reminiscent of the Ring's crawling horror-wraith (another movie-trope alert!). Her obscenely seductive 'murder-dance' will launch 1000 Tik-toks, guaranteed. I've read that some additional scenes of animatronic violence were slashed from the final film. Would it have made it more horrific if they had been left in? Probably so. Would it have made it more enjoyable to this reviewer? Hard to say. My top 'horomedy' remains Karen Black vs. the demon with a dagger in Trilogy of Terror.

Life-like dolls can be terrifying and scary, especially those with a corrupted soul. Yet for all the reasons I mentioned, I found no soul in M3GAN, leaving me distinctly un-horrified.

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor and Movie Reviewer for In Focus  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for WESH2 News and WKMG News.  She also edits on-air spots for Matter Of Fact, a highly-rated nationally syndicated news and information program.  For more than 20 years she has covered the Florida Film Festival and the World Peace Film Festival, with additional experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events at MTV Networks.  She was previously a columnist for the Focus In Newspaper.  

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