M3gan. The review of the horror produced by James Wan

Almost a dizzying “family” film made in James Wan, which between Columbus and Dante tries to conquer other imaginaries. Too bad I can’t get rid of the laboratory project aftertaste

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M3gan, the latest film produced by James Wan, opens with a media excrescence all “inside” the story. It is a commercial for a technological toy, a robot that is also a pet for children, subject to the usual control app and, obviously, unavoidably social. On this segment, especially on the way it crosses and rethinks the anxiety of viral web content in the style of funny or die a lot could already be said, but the question is another. The point, if anything, is that the expected horror exploit (almost traditional at the beginning of films of the genre) comes only after this “half” moment and does not stop shuffling the cards. Because the fright leaves room for estrangement and, why not, even for an unprecedented tragic and realistic aftertaste, as if to say that the time of the supernatural threat is over.

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James Wan’s cinema has changed. Or maybe not. Maybe it just revealed itself. It was already talked about at the time of the franchise The Conjuringwhich over time has increasingly embraced its soul from maximalist blockbusterbut the central piece of the mutation process is perhaps the sensational Maliciousa hundred per hour horror evidently contemporary in the way it thinks about bodies and digital and at the same time extraordinarily theoretical when it tries to playfully look at the dynamics of the genre from the outside.

Because if there is indeed something that Malicious what betrays is precisely James Wan’s desire to treat horror as a viaticum to explore other narrative possibilities, other spaces, other aesthetics all to be conquered.

M3gan it can only be upping the ante of this discourse as exploratory as it is predatory, obviously starting from the scaffolding that supports it. Because the film is the first project produced by Atomic Monster by Wan with Blumhouse. As if to recognize how much contemporary cinema is increasingly a matter of executive producers, as, above all, to increase its specific weight by allying itself with King Midas Jason Blum.

M3gan it is therefore a classic project of the Wan factory. The story is written by him, Akela Cooper, former author of Malicious takes care of the script, while in the direction there is the professional Gerard Johnstone. It is the configuration of any “second line” horror à la The Nuntherefore, yet the story of this robot doll that an engineer builds to keep his orphaned niece company and who nevertheless will take her role as guardian so literally as to become a threat, moves following a fascinating rhythm in the backbeat.

Because the horror element is fast, aggressive and manages to land unexpected paws, as in the sequence in which M3gan faces a bully who torments his protege Katie, yet the story seems to tell us that the point of the discussion is elsewhere.

What really stands out are in fact all those moments in which M3gan leave horror aside and rediscover something new and yet fortissimo sense of wonder, as in the sequence of the first meeting between M3gan and little Katy, or when the robot promises the little girl to keep the memory of her parents for her.

There’s no point in going around it: M3gan is the first, absurd yet radical “family film” made in James Wan. And then, from a certain moment on, it’s all a matter of exploration and adaptation, starting right from Johnstone, who indulges the suggestions of the subject by moving with the same messy enthusiasm that he directed Malicious. He is ambitious, curious, but above all he has courage, at least in appearance. Thus, when looking for references to lean on, he looks to Chris Columbus more than Mancini and his Chucky, not only for the way he thinks about the wonderful but also for how he underlines the lines of a moral that slowly makes its way through the images .

Just when he tries to develop this pedagogical dimension, M3gan however, it tends to trudge, to lose much of its acceleration, to weigh every starting point ending up blocked by insecurity. Thus the intelligent cynicism with which the script tells the paranoia of contemporary parenting expires in didacticism; so Johnstone’s curiosity loses a few turns and the director tends to get distracted, taking refuge in more canonical and perhaps banal visual solutions. He really only comes back into the game in the final confrontation but his is undoubtedly a formidable backlash, poised between Joe Dante and Shawn Levy. The film is probably safe, just a pity that, despite the obvious efforts, it is unable to free itself from the typical aftertaste of laboratory projects, those playful, aware but perhaps too closed in on themselves to have a real impact. But Wan, it is clear, has nevertheless conquered a new space in the contemporary context. Perhaps, really, in perspective this is the only thing that matters.

Original title: ID.
Director: Gerard Johnston
Cast: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Amie Donald, Ronny Chieng, Arlo Green, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps
Distribution: Universal Pictures
Duration: 102′
Origin: USA, 2022

The evaluation of the film of Sentieri Selvaggi

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M3gan. The review of the horror produced by James Wan