M3GAN director on why reshoots aiming for PG-13 rating accidentally made the horror movie scarier

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

M3GAN director Gerard Johnstone says he was inspired by Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell when he decided to reshoot some scenes to achieve the movie's PG-13 rating. In a new interview with Total Film and GamesRadar+, the filmmaker, who previously helmed wacky horror-comedy Housebound, recalled feeling excited by the challenge of toning down certain sequences and having to get more creative when it came to the scares. 

"Making it PG-13 was something that happened after the fact, but it was always so close to PG-13 anyway," he says. "It seemed kind of a mistake not to embrace it. I even remember thinking early on, 'This could be PG-13, and some of my favorite films like Drag Me to Hell are PG-13.' So we made the decision to go PG-13 and actually reshot a couple of things.

"What I was really stoked about is that when we reshot those scenes, they were more effective. It's like 'Yes, you do have to cut away at certain times' but it's fun having to rely on sound and suggestion so much."

Starring Get Out's Allison Williams and The Haunting of Hill House's Violet McGraw, M3GAN centers on gifted roboticist Gemma, who invents a mechanical mate for her newly orphaned niece Cady following the sudden death of her sister and brother-in-law. Preoccupied with work and unable to connect with the lonely youngster, Gemma programs M3GAN to "protect Cady from harm, both physical and emotional" – an update that ends up having terrible consequences when the doll becomes overprotective and starts offing anyone she perceives as a threat.

Without spoiling too much, one particular moment that Johnstone remembers tweaking a lot involves M3GAN and the vicious dog of Gemma's neighbor. Hounds in horror movies often tend to suffer grisly fates, but what happens to the pooch here happens entirely off-camera, leaving the audience to imagine what M3GAN did to it. 

"I remember turning to my sound designer after a re-do and just saying, 'Holy shit, that's worse,'" Johnstone laughs. "We were trying to get this PG-13 rating and I was like, 'That is so much worse than what we had before.'"

M3GAN releases in US theaters on January 6, and UK cinemas on January 13. While we wait, check out our list of the most exciting upcoming movies coming our way in 2023 and beyond.

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.