Reviews: Blood, The Dentist, Housebound, and M3GAN

M3GAN (2023) Beware the 90-minute movie which has become culturally defined by a meaningless, split second character action. A hollow rip-off of Child’s Play and every other killer doll movie ever made, M3GAN is the first horror film of 2023, and it’s not a great start. After her parents are killed in a car accident, young Cady (Violet McGraw) is sent to live with emotionless aunt, Gemma (Allison Williams), who just happens to work for a massive toy company and is the creator of a cutting-edge, experimental life-sized animatronic doll called M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android). When Gemma brings the doll home to test out with Cady, M3GAN begins to act aggressive towards anyone, or anything, that shows any kind of animosity towards Cady. Guess what happens? Unlike Andy and mom Karen in Child’s Play, M3GAN features no sympathetic characters, and that includes kid protagonist Cady, who comes off as just bratty and irrational. Not scary, occasionally funny, and super predictable, M3GAN is so devoid of original ideas and personality that it creates a vacuum of dry storytelling. It’s the Pumpkin Spice Latte of killing doll movies: it’s basic AF. C

BLOOD (2022) Appropriately moody Brad Anderson (Session 9) tale about recently divorced mother, Jess (Michelle Monaghan), who moves back in to her childhood farm house with kids, Tyler (Skylar Morgan Jones) and Owen (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong), after a long recovery from drugs. After their dog disappears in the nearby woods and returns days later like a fiend from Pet Sematary, it chomps Owen, who begins to undergo a bizarre mood change, and develops an unnatural quench for fresh blood. Sort of an alternative take on the vampire story, this is obviously striving to be something deeper and more realistic, but in doing so shoots itself in the foot by delivering neither a compelling horror yarn or a gripping family drama. The screenplay (by Will Honley) spends a great deal of time painting Jess as the villain to her ex-husband (Skeet Ulrich) when the script should be using its time to explain the vague supernatural influence that has turned Owen into a monster – it never does. A clever idea that doesn’t go far enough. C

THE DENTIST (1996) A witless Dr. Giggles rip-off about a mentally unbalanced, anally retentive dentist (Corbin Bernsen) who snaps after he discovers his awful wife having sex with the sleazy pool cleaner and goes on a tooth-drilling, tongue-removing, mouth-stretching killing spree. Not nearly as gruesome as it sounds, this is actually quite dull and way too talky for such a cheap n’gimmicky story. Bernsen is good in the role and has fun with the material, which is a shame since the screenplay never allows itself to have as much fun, making the whole film seem like a one-man production wrapped in a wet blanket. Bargain basement make-up FX and a ridiculously convenient and unsatisfying ending help to sink this. Followed by a The Dentist 2! D

HOUSEBOUND (2014) Clever New Zealand horror comedy about troubled Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly), who’s put under house arrest back at her childhood home with her kooky mother, Miriam (Tima Te Wiata), who believes the place is haunted. When Kylie begins to experience supernatural occurrences she enlists the help of her security guard (Glen-Paul Waru) who’s an amateur ghost hunter. What at first feels like a sitcom dropped within the Conjuring Universe, Housebound eventually transforms into its own thing and never feels like a copy of anything. The script (by director Gerard Johnstone, M3GAN) balances its humor and scares up until its rather ridiculous final act, which is smartly foiled in humor and never taken seriously. A light, fun romp that goes down like candy. B