Double dose of freaky movies as ‘Cocaine Bear’ hits theaters, ‘M3GAN’ hits Peacock

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Cocaine Bear' & 'M3GAN' (Part 1)

Get ready to pop some popcorn at home — or lather on that butter at the multiplex.

Whether you’re staying in or going out, there’s a double dose of freaky film options this weekend with “Cocaine Bear” in theaters and “M3GAN” streaming Friday on Peacock.

The former is the latest in a long line of creature features, from genuine horror in “Jaws” (1975) to much campier takes in “Snakes on a Plane” (2006) and “Sharknado” (2013).

In other words, if you ever wanted to see Tony Montana’s booger sugar snorted by Leonardo DiCaprio’s nemesis in “The Revenant” (2015), you might like “Cocaine Bear.”

Directed by Elizabeth Banks, the script by Jimmy Warden is loosely based on a true story in 1985 when drug smugglers dropped a duffle bag of cocaine, which was accidentally consumed by an American black bear as it roamed from Tennessee to Georgia.

In this fictionalized version, a ragtag group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converge to take on the bear, allowing plenty of cheesy zingers from a cast of Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Christian Convery, Alden Ehrenreich, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Matthew Rhys and the late Ray Liotta in one of his final performances.

Hip-hop star Pusha-T even provides a remix of Melle Mel’s 1983 cocaine tune “White Lines,” which was memorably used in the Jean-Michel Basquiat biopic “Basquiat” (1996).

Unlike that film, “Cocaine Bear” doesn’t pretend to be high art; it’s a goofy B-movie that attempts to juggle horror and comedy. If you want a more realistic survival thriller, check out Idris Elba battling killer lions in “Beast” (2022), which was surprisingly gripping last summer.

Meanwhile, if you’re staying home this weekend, the sci-fi horror flick “M3GAN” makes its streaming premiere on Peacock after a successful box-office run last month, proving that clever horror movies can keep the industry afloat beyond standard superhero tent-poles.

Peacock is a fitting platform for the daughter of former NBC News anchor Brian Williams, but by now, Allison Williams is a household name in her own right after her brilliantly creepy performance as Rose Armitage in Jordan Peele’s masterpiece “Get Out” (2017).

Here, Williams plays Seattle toy company roboticist Gemma, whose niece Cady (Violet McGraw) has been orphaned by a car accident. To help Cady cope, Gemma introduces her to a child-sized A.I. doll named M3GAN (physically portrayed by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis), which becomes dangerously protective of Cady to the point of murder.

Directed by Gerard Johnstone from a script by Akela Cooper (“Malignant”), the film is well paced, but it’s hard to award originality points in the shadow of Chucky from “Child’s Play” (1988), which still holds up surprisingly well. Even the famous line, “Hi, I’m Chucky, wanna play?” is replicated by M3GAN, who says, “Nice to meet you, Cady. Wanna hang out?”

Either way, the formula still works for freaky fun, especially for teen viewers, who will no doubt dig the Taylor Swift soundtrack song “It’s Nice to Have a Friend,” though the scarier tune is M3GAN singing a literal rendition of Sia: “I am titanium!” The end result was so popular that a sequel, “M3GAN 2.0,” is already set to be released on Jan. 17, 2025.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Cocaine Bear' & 'M3GAN' (Part 2)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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