Budget Restraints Made James Wan And Gerard Johnstone Go Practical With M3GAN

Horror had a very, very big year in 2022, serving as the most reliable thing outside of superheroes in the movie business. Where original concepts failed pretty much everywhere else (save for "Everything Everywhere All at Once"), horror could turn something like "Smile" into a smash hit. Well, 2023 is looking to make some more original genre hits and that kicks off in earnest with "M3GAN," the latest from director Gerard Johnstone and producer James Wan.

The movie, which centers on a very lifelike caregiving robot that goes haywire and gets murder-y, has been a huge win with critics (read our review here), and is sure to inspire endless conversation online. That, in no small part, has to do with the titular killer doll at the center of it, which was largely accomplished through practical effects, with some CGI to polish it off. Speaking with Daily Dead, Wan explained that the practical effects actually had more to do with the low budget than anything else:

"At the end of the day, this was a pretty low-budget film in that respect, so it's not a film with lots of money behind it to be able to pull M3GAN off. What we had to do was be smart about everything and be creative with how we approached the character, and without spoiling it, we employed all kinds of methods and all kinds of techniques. One of the things very early on was Gerard and I were very adamant in wanting to keep it as practical as possible. I'm a big fan of practical effects and Gerard is really into that as well, so that made it easier. We used whatever tools we needed so that we could bring her to life."

A lifeless prop that is full of life

It's understandable that so many movies lean on CGI, as it's flexible and can be bent to the every will of the filmmakers. But it is also very expensive and, in many cases, can't quite match the real thing. Or, at least as real as a movie can make a thing. In this case, "M3GAN" benefits greatly from the use of practical techniques, which is an example of constraint paving the way for creativity. Speaking further, Wan explained that, though he's a producer on the film, the credit belongs to Johnstone:

"That's something that I wanna give credit to Gerard for – he really figured out how to infuse so much life into M3GAN. She is this inanimate object. She's a doll, she's a lifeless prop. But he was able to bring so much personality to her that M3GAN became such a strong character in the movie. She's so sassy. She's so funny. And she's likable at the same time. We are very thankful for the technicians that were able to help us pull M3GAN off for the movie."

Not to spoil anything, but it's remarkable how much character the doll in question has. Much like Chucky from "Child's Play" before her, M3GAN continues the cinematic tradition of killer dolls with a killer personality. Not to get ahead of ourselves here, but that very much can be the hallmark of a long-running horror franchise. Perhaps this is the start of a new one?

"M3GAN" is in theaters now.