CNN   — 

The lifelike but blank stare. The almost-but-not-quite accurate proportions. The vacant smile.

Dolls are meant to be nothing more than playthings for children, but it must be said: They’re creepy.

Fodder for more than one successful horror movie franchise (hello, “Child’s Play” and “Annabelle”), the theme appears ready for an upgrade with the upcoming release of Universal Studios’ “M3GAN, ” a new thriller that recently spawned memes aplenty following the release of its first trailer and even started a Twitter war between doll-sized titan of terror Chucky plus terrifying new arrival Megan.

The movie follows an engineer and programmer – played by Allison Williams associated with “Get Out” fame – who designs the “perfect toy” with regard to her niece (Violet McGraw from “The Haunting regarding Hill House”), only to discover that the particular bizarrely lifelike and hi-tech doll will stop at nothing to protect her brand new friend.

“M3GAN” doesn’t hit theaters until January, but the movie’s quick, zeitgeist-piercing creepiness as seen in the teaser is something to behold.

“I was always thinking of her as real, ” “M3GAN” director Gerard Johnston told CNN of his approach. “And that actually became quite interesting. When we got into pre-production, [and] we had to physically bring her to life, trying to make sure that she appeared to be without limits, I always thought of the girl as a real character. ”

Cady (Violet McGraw, left), M3GAN and Gemma (Allison Williams) in a scene from "M3GAN."

Johnstone set out in order to make Megan (short regarding “Model 3 generative android, ” Williams explains in the trailer) more than just a creepy inanimate doll. And while he couldn’t directly speak to how their titular character was created – two actresses share the credit for bringing the character to life on screen, including one for her voice – typically the finished result in this teaser is more than unsettling, especially when she runs on all fours like a dog or dances gracefully in a hallway before using an office tool to wreak bloody havoc.

“There was just an excitement about creating often the doll itself and making something that people hadn’t seen before, producing something which just went further into the uncanny valley, ” Johnstone stated.

‘Childlike things’ gone very wrong

There is the Japanese theory stemming from Sigmund Freud’s concept of your uncanny , which describes the psychological  experience of some thing familiar that is slightly altered, thereby creating an unsettling or even horrifying effect.

Johnstone referenced the concept as one of the primary inspirations intended for Megan’s clear and apparent creepiness.

Chucky, one of film's creepiest toys, in 1988's "Child's Play."

“When something looks real, yet we all know it isn’t very real, it’s immediately disturbing and disturbing, ” he observed. “And the more real the doll is, the exact more you have that effect… I think it is just that thing involving the ratios being almost right. I don’t know enough about exactly why audiences, why human beings have that will reaction. We just know that they do, and of which it would be a new good thing to explore inside a movie. ”

Of the menacing personality at the center connected with his story, Johnstone mentioned, “sometimes you have to be able to look twice at the woman to realize it’s actually some sort of doll. I think that was the big inspiration. All of us thought we would have something special if we could just push this because far as we can go. ”

And just such as Pennywise the particular Clown is so terrifying , taking something as familiar in addition to sweet while a doll and making it threatening will be fertile territory for genuine scares.

“When you consider dolls since a subgenre of scary, you possess to remember that horror by its definition is a good genre with otherness, ” said Michael Varrati, filmmaker and co-host of the Midnight Mass podcast . “In the case for [creepy doll films], I think what’s being othered is purity or innocence, because when we look at dolls, we tend to think of them by and large as children’s objects, and representative of childhood, and dolls as the companions of children. And this is a time of purity, where life should not be fettered by the evils of the world. So to take this thing that is a symbol of chasteness, and distort or pervert it in some way, therein lies the terror. ”

Patrick Wilson (left) with Annabelle in "The Conjuring" (2013).

That subgenre will be rife with scary examples, from 1989’s “Puppet Master” to the particular ventriloquist dummy nightmare that was “Dead Silence” in 2007. Varrati also points to more esoteric but notable entries that influenced the movies that followed, including “Trilogy of Terror” from 1975 and 1986’s “Dolls” from director Stuart Gordon.

“We have this fascination with childlike things going wrong. It’s a time-honored tradition within horror, ” Varrati said.

Creepy plaything vs. killer robots

As for “M3GAN, ” which director Johnstone summed up while “an analogy about parenting in the age of iPads, ” time will tell if typically the actual film is as creepy as the internet-breaking first trailer. But it looks promising, since the movie seems in order to artfully skirt the line between creepy doll and fantastic robot film, the latter being another subgenre that has earned a hallowed place in science fiction and horror (Anyone remember Skynet, the nefarious A. I. from the “Terminator” films? ).

“Because she is a living doll… [‘M3GAN’ is a] cautionary tale about A. I. heading rogue, ” Johnstone stated.

Like scary doll films, stories that explore evil and/or self-aware technology call to mind this troublesome plus blurry line where the inanimate object ends, and where something akin to humanity – yet somehow different – begins.

“It came down to the way we brought Megan to be able to life, ” Johnstone mentioned. “She doesn’t over animate, she’s almost reptilian, in addition to [it’s] her stillness I think that makes her even more scary, because she doesn’t have to do much. She just has to turn her head an inch. ”

But don’t take the director’s word for it – get Megan’s herself, in often the chilling trailer on YouTube along with 17 million views and even counting.

“Part of the fear is that these things are so very human, ” Varrati said. “Where does mankind actually begin? Or exactly where does the device or your app stop, and something else start? ”

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