“Be a doll…” people say, when asking you to do something for them. Dolls are the shorthand for cutesy proxies to be manipulated at our whim.
Dolls, with their cold faces, blank stares, and aura of being on the brink of movement – if you look away for just one second.
M3GAN cuts chunks out of Black Mirror and smooshes the bits together with slices from Childs Play and Annabelle to make a glorious campy horror movie.
This isn’t surprising considering the movie is co-written by Annabelle director James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Malignant) and frequent collaborator Akela Cooper (also Malignant).
Yet the real clue that M3GAN is on to a winner is the choice of director. Fans of Gerald Johnstone’s excellent previous movie Housebound know that giving a horror concept a frisson of fun sits nicely in his wheelhouse.
In this movie about a self-learning android ‘toy’ friend who takes murderous exception to perceived threats to her young companion, Johnstone has the exact right tone to work with.
What Is M3GAN About?
Gemma (Allison Williams) is a roboticist and designer for Funki Toys, who has been secretly working on an advanced 4 foot high model.
Awkward around kids herself, when her young niece Cady (Violet McGraw) loses both her parents in a car crash, Gemma, now Cady’s guardian, is at a loss as to how to connect.
But does she even need to when she has an artificially intelligent playmate just waiting to be tested?
MEGAN Official Trailer
Is MEGAN Worth Watching?
Skittering along the surface of this campy horror inevitability (She’s programmed to do no harm! But also programmed to protect Cody against all forms of harm, physical and mental. Who could foresee what would happen next?) is some commentary on parents shifting the dependency of their children onto devices.
‘Screen time’ takes on another level when it’s an AI powered self-aware doll, and Wan sprinkles some coy jabs at lazy parenting – and how tech companies exploit that – throughout his movie to give it some pep.
M3gan herself is an excellently realised horror creation. Using a mixture of animatronics and physical stunt acting, the descent from cutesy plaything to disjointed death machine is a satisfying one.
Close ups trigger the ‘uncanny valley’ response, whereas long shots give licence to body actor Amie Donald to contort with mechanical wrongness. Over it all the singsong voice of Jenna Davis foreshadows inscrutable doom.
The horror sits more in director Johnstone’s camp than Wan’s though. Relatively little blood is spilled until the end and there are few standout nasty sequences (aside from someone who cops an earful).
Those in the market for gloriously daft or horrifically violent will find M3GAN rather mild. Rated PG-13 in the US, M3GAN trades more off its concept than skin slicing potential.
Neither is it particularly scary; almost all lunges or dead-eyed attacks are significantly signposted.
Johnstone pulls through though by virtue of tone, which remains delightfully sassy throughout the runtime.
AI gone rogue is hardly a new concept, but when it is implanted within the titanium structure of a demented 4ft tall plaything then such prophetic glee can be reprogrammed and uploaded all over again.
So, best be polite to ChatGPT now before someone inevitably puts it inside something with legs.
Words by Mike Record
Cast Of M3GAN Movie
Allison Williams as Gemma
Violet McGraw as Cady
Ronny Chieng as David
Amie Donald as M3GAN
Jenna Davis as the voice of M3GAN
Brian Jordan Alvarez as Cole
Jen Van Epps as Tess
Stephane Garneau-Monten as Kurt
Lori Dungey as Celia
Amy Usherwood as Lydia
Get ready for non-stop entertainment with access to thousands of popular movies and TV shows, including award-winning Amazon Originals. Plus, enjoy the convenience of FREE One-Day Delivery on millions of items. With the ability to watch anywhere and cancel anytime, you'll never have to worry about being tied down. So why wait? – Join Now
30-day free trial available.