There are some horror movies where fans go in wanting and expecting to be scared out of their minds. The new film M3GANis not one of those. From the moment the trailer dropped, the star of the film – a child-sized AI-enabled doll – was turned into a meme, mostly because of a scene where M3GAN dances creepily in a hallway.
Viewing the film as a comedy is the only way to properly enjoy it, as nothing it contains can be taken seriously. Not that there aren’t some serious undertones to the story, as Gemma (Allison Williams) is given custody of her niece Cady (Violet McGraw) after Cady’s parents die in a car accident. While willing to take her in, Gemma is not exactly equipped to be a parental figure, as she’s obsessed with her work at a tech toy company.
Her latest invention is M3GAN (played by Amie Donald, voiced by Jenna Davis), a doll designed to become a kid’s best friend, able to react spontaneously to any and all conversations. Gemma unknowingly unlocks a more sinister side of M3GAN when she tells the doll to protect Cady from all physical and emotional harm. That becomes a job that M3GAN takes super-seriously, to the detriment of anyone or anything that dares look at Cady sideways.
Directed by Gerard Johnstone and written by Akela Cooper, the film is only scary if you’ve never watched a Chucky or an Annabelle movie before. To be sure, M3GAN is creepy as hell, with wide, unblinking eyes and a ramrod-still posture most of the time. But none of the scenes are set up to elicit screams; instead, it’s all about anticipating what kind of havoc the doll will wreak, and then laughing at what the filmmakers have put on the screen.
It’s also best not to think too hard about the victims of M3GAN’s murderous spree, as they include ones like kids and dogs that most films typically avoid. However, most of the violent scenes are stunted; the film is rated PG-13, which means that there is relatively little blood to be seen and almost nothing graphic. That’s a double-edged sword; a friendlier rating will bring in more viewers, but it leaves many of scenes of horror unsatisfying.
The filmmakers are not subtle about artificial intelligence being something that people should fear, also including an Alexa-like home smart device as part of the story. The film is seemingly set in the near future, where technology has advanced a little – but not too far – beyond what is currently available. This possible warning about where the world may be headed is overshadowed by the insanity put forth by M3GAN, though.
You don’t go to a film like M3GAN for the acting, but Williams and McGraw acquit themselves well anyway. With Donald providing the movements and Davis the voice, M3GAN becomes a wholly believable character, one that no one would want anywhere near them. The funny Ronny Chieng is mostly wasted as the CEO of the toy company.
Will M3GAN remain a part of pop culture past the end of January? It’s not likely, especially since it won’t go down as a memorable horror film. But for the first major movie release of the year, it provides more than enough entertainment to justify its existence.
M3GAN is now playing in theaters.
Photo by Geoffrey Short/Universal Pictures
M3GAN in M3GAN