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What influenced new horror flick 'M3GAN'? 'Child's Play,' 'Annabelle' and... 'The Terminator'?

"It was always my dream to create an iconic monster of my own."

By Josh Weiss

From Willy, to Fats, to Chucky, the history of cinema is rife with malevolent puppets and play-things capable of thinking for themselves.

For years, screenwriter Akela Cooper (Malignant) has nurtured an ambition to "create an iconic monster of my own," she admitted during an interview with Empire for the magazine's January 2023 issue (now on sale). The opportunity finally presented itself when producer James Wan (Dead Silence) approached her with an offer to write the script for M3GAN. She jumped at the chance — "Hell, yeah, I'll take a crack!" — and got to work, drawing on a childhood fear of the killer dolls famously depicted in 1978's Magic and 1988's Child's Play.

Directed by Gerard Johnstone (Housebound), M3GAN centers around toy company roboticist Gemma (Get Out's Allison Williams), who gifts her 8-year-old niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), with an experimental therapy doll when the girl's parents are killed in a tragic car accident. At first, all seems well as Cady grows attached to the uncanny machine, but as time goes on, M3GAN grows strange and erratic, willing to do anything to protect the child she's bonded to.

"It's Annabelle meets The Terminator," said Wan, who conceived of the screen story with Cooper. "I'm fascinated by things that are meant to be innocent, but become more...malign ... Since she's more than just a toy, she becomes capable of things we as humans can't even do."

Ronny Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Lori Dungey, and Stephane Garneau-Monten round out the cast.

The film was executive produced by Williams, Mark Katchur, Ryan Turek, Michael Clear, Judson Scott, Adam Hendricks, Greg Gilreath. Jason Blum produces alongside Wan. Earlier this week, it was reported that the horror titans were in advanced talks to merge their production companies (Blumhouse and Atomic Monster) into a single entity.

"The industry reaction to our hopeful future together was really everything I hoped for,” Blum told Variety shortly after the news broke. “And most importantly, the fans went crazy. That was really what I wanted, most of all,” the power producer continued. “But the industry was excited; the directors that we work with were excited; the company, our staff was excited, so it was everything that I’d hoped.”

M3GAN arrives on the big screen Jan. 6, 2023 by way of Universal Pictures and Blumhouse.

Looking for some more killer doll action in the meantime? Season 1 of Chucky is now streaming on Peacock.