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'M3GAN' went through reshoots to secure a PG-13 rating - which somehow made the movie even scarier

M3GAN hits the big screen Friday, Jan. 6.

By Josh Weiss
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If you think a horror movie needs a hard R-rating to be considered truly scary, then you better think again. So long as a director nails the execution and atmosphere of the project in question, the mandatory label given to them by the MPAA is wholly meaningless. Gerard Johnstone's M3GAN, for instance, went through a number of reshoots to score a PG-13 rating and ended up even scarier as a result.

"Making it PG-13 was something that happened after the fact, but it was always so close to PG-13, anyway. It seemed kind of a mistake not to embrace it," the filmmaker explained during an interview with Total Film and GamesRadar+. I even remember thinking early on, 'This could be PG-13, and some of my favorite films like Drag Me to Hell are PG-13.' So we made the decision to go PG-13 and actually reshot a couple of things. What I was really stoked about is that when we reshot those scenes, they were more effective. It's like 'Yes, you do have to cut away at certain times' but it's fun having to rely on sound and suggestion so much."

Written by Akela Cooper (Malignant), the film stars Allison Williams (Get Out) as a toy company roboticist who makes the ill-fated decision of bonding her 8-year-old niece with a murderous doll (voiced by Jenna Davis). Once it becomes clear that M3GAN can think and kill for herself, it's already too late: the bloody rampage has begun and no one — not even the neighbor's dog — is safe. 

"I remember turning to my sound designer after a re-do and just saying, 'Holy sh**, that's worse,'" Johnstone said of a sequence where a belligerent canine is killed offscreen. "We were trying to get this PG-13 rating and I was like, 'That is so much worse than what we had before.'"

Violet McGraw (The Haunting of Hill House), Ronny Chieng (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), Brian Jordan Alvarez (Will & Grace), Jen Van Epps (Cowboy Bebop), Lori Dungey (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, extended edition), and Stephane Garneau-Monten (Straight Forward) round out the supporting cast.

James Wan (Aquaman) and Jason Blum (Halloween Ends) are producers. Wan conceived of the screen story with Cooper. Mark Katchur (Whiplash), Ryan Turek (Halloween Ends), Michael Clear (Malignant), Judson Scott (The Curse of La Llorona), Adam Hendricks (Black Christmas), and Greg Gilreath (Vengeance) serve as executive producers alongside Williams.

M3GAN hits the big screen this Friday — Jan. 6.

Looking for more killer dolls? The first season of Chucky is now streaming on Peacock.