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'M3GAN' started out as a straight-up horror film before Gerard Johnstone got his hands on the script
Adding a satirical bite to the proceedings really made it something special.
Throughout the course of its theatrical run, Universal Pictures' M3GAN grossed a little over $176 million at the worldwide box office and garnered widespread praise from critics (it currently holds a near-perfect score of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Producer Jason Blum credited the movie's runaway success to a post-pandemic desire on the part of the audience to have fun.
But audiences could only have fun if the finished product didn't take its over-the-top premise too seriously. Directed by New Zealand filmmaker Gerard Johnstone (Housebound), the film works so well because of an irreverently dark and satirical sense of humor that organically meshes with the bloody misdeeds of the eponymous killer doll at the heart of its story. Rather than undermine the horror, the light-hearted jab at modern society's over-reliance on "smart" technology ends up reinforcing the overall message.
Speaking with Empire for the magazine's June 2023 issue (now on sale), Johnstone seemingly reveal that he did an uncredited rewrite on the screenplay by Malignant scribe, Akela Cooper.
"When I got this film, it was a Blumhouse film, it was a horror," he explained. "But what excited me was all the things I could potentially twist it into. Science fiction was one of those things. If we could get really sci-fi, we could get really satirical. I was doing a lot of research into toys to see what's out there. And it was really interesting to see that they were so ridiculous."
For a specific example of just how bizarre M3GAN can get, look no further than the now-iconic hallway dance in the film's third act just before the homicidal AI murders David (Ronny Chieng) and his assistant, Kurt (Stephane Garneau-Monten). "She's distracting David, so so that she can get to the guillotine," said Johnstone, who wrote the sequence to Skatt Bros' "Walk the Night" (the track was ultimately licensed for use the project). "It was on heavy rotation in my house," the director added.
M3GAN's hallway rampage was supposed to be a lot bloodier with Funki employees meeting grisly ends after sticking their heads out of doorways to check out the commotion. Sadly, this gruesome spree of head-chopping was axed (pun intended) over scheduling concerns.
A direct sequel — appropriately entitled M3GAN 2.0 — is currently in development and slated for a big screen debut in early 2025. Johnstone will return to direct, with Allison Williams and Violet McGraw reprising Gemma and Cady, respectively.
Looking for even more killer doll fun? Check out SYFY's Chucky series — the first season of which is now streaming on Peacock. The hit series (based on the long-running Child's Play film franchise) was recently picked up for a third season.