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From the director of “Housebound” and the screenwriter of “Malignant” comes a new horror feature on the perils of artificial intelligence. Starring Allison Williams of “Get Out” and “The Perfection” and Ronny Chieng of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “M3GAN” is helmed by Gerard Johnstone from a script by Akela Cooper (who previously penned “Hell Fest” and the “Luke Cage” series) based on a story developed with James Wan. “M3GAN” will arrive in theaters in time for Martin Luther King Day weekend next year, with a release date of January 13, 2023.

The synopsis admittedly conjures images of Good Guy doll Chucky, though creator Don Mancini is nowhere to be found in the credits:

Allison Williams plays Gemma, a brilliant roboticist at a toy company. She uses artificial intelligence to develop M3GAN, a life-like doll programmed to be a kid’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. After unexpectedly gaining custody of her orphaned niece, Gemma enlists the help of the M3GAN prototype — a decision that has unimaginable consequences.

An Illustrious Genre History Of Friends To The End

On top of the “M3GAN” script, Akela Cooper has done the screenplay for a sequel to another Wan work: “The Nun.” “The Nun 2” is currently in post-production as a follow-up to James Wan’s 2018 Gothic horror, with Bonnie Aarons set to return as the nightmare-inducing sister. Genre heads will recall Aarons as the crusty, musty bum behind Winky’s Diner in David Lynch’s feverish early aughts neo-noir “Mulholland Drive.” Meanwhile, Cooper’s work with Wan on “Malignant” led to one of the most bonkers theatrical releases of 2021, so hopes are high for “M3GAN” to likewise shock and thrill audiences. 

It’s a time-honored tradition in the genre; the first battery-operated brutal buddy that comes to mind for most is Chucky, the mass-produced Good Guy doll spiritually hijacked by voodoo-dabbling killer Charles Lee Ray. But murder dolls go further back and beyond that. Old horror heads will recall the Talky Tina doll of the old-school “Twilight Zone” series (the episode is “Living Doll,” for those looking for a revisit), where the baby-faced toy looked Telly Savalas dead in the eye and threatened his life if he didn’t treat her with respect. 

A particularly obsessed genre fan might cite the 1972 Amicus anthology “Asylum,” directed by Roy Ward Baker and featuring a Murderer’s Row of British actors to include Patrick Magee and Charlotte Rampling. In it, a tiny, stabby, mechanized Herbert Lom wreaks havoc in a segment titled “Mannequins of Horror,” soul transference and all. 

Finally, no murder doll list would be complete without the tiny terrorist that turned Karen Black feral, the Zuni fetish doll of Dan Curtis’ 1975 anthology “Trilogy of Terror.” And that’s not to mention the non-horror explorations in the same sandbox, like Joe Dante’s “Small Soldiers” (which is a better movie than you remember). Don’t be fooled by the addition of microchips and A.I.; little monsters are staples of the horror tradition, and we love watching them wreak havoc.

Wan produces the thriller with Jason Blum. Michael Clear and Judson Scott of Wan’s Atomic Monster banner will executive produce alongside Ryan Turek for Blumhouse. Adam Hendricks and Greg Gilreath will executive produce for Divide/Conquer, and Mark Katchur and Williams will also serve as executive producers. Blumhouse and Atomic Monster produce in association with Divide/Conquer, whose recent slate includes Mickey Reece nun-centric powerhouse “Agnes” and Amazon Studios’ “The Voyeurs,” which is in post-production.

“M3GAN” is scheduled to arrive in theaters on January 13, 2023.

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