My passion for horror is well known but I was once utterly terrified of the girl from The Ring, Ghostface, and even Chucky. The latter in particular is a source of terror for many children, as well as older audiences. While nothing can really take the place of the redhead in overalls, the legendary doll may gain a worthy opponent in the titular character of Gerard Johnstone’s newest horror, M3GAN. Mixed in a rollercoaster of blood, camp, and a lullaby version of Sia and David Guetta’s “Titanium,” is a story that emphasizes the importance of human connection versus technology through themes of grief and family.
When Cady (Violet McGraw) loses her parents in a tragic car accident, her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) – a genius engineer working at a toy company – takes on the role of guardian for the little girl. The duo has never been close, and Gemma struggles to connect with her niece. Due to the nature of her work, the robotics engineer thinks about it as a problem to solve. What if she builds Cady something that will be programmed to nurture? Enter M3GAN (played by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis). Short for Model 3 Generative Android, this miracle doll made of metal, wires, and a hefty amount of silicone, can continuously learn about the child paired with her. This lifelike robot and a wonder of artificial intelligence becomes Cady’s best friend and makes an impression on Gemma’s boss David (Ronny Chieng), earning the possibility of mass production for anyone who can afford the ten-thousand-dollar toy.
Many filmmakers have demonstrated that nothing can truly replace human connection. Johnstone, however, takes it up a notch. Cady’s behavior changes for the worse under the influence of M3GAN’s out-of-control behavior, as she learns too much too fast. When Gemma realizes the consequences of her technology, it may be too late to stop the robot doll from singing and dancing her way through a pile of bodies. M3GAN will undeniably remain the campiest character of the new year. She manages to be both frightening and witty; absurd and impressive; friend and foe. M3GAN effortlessly becomes the one true and worthy adversary of the red-haired, cursing doll we all know.
As the doll goes rogue, carnage commences. You don’t know what to expect. Will she start walking on walls? Or maybe pull weapons out from her wired body? No matter what, the doll will undeniably captivate you with her outlandish singing and dancing or take you aback by going on all four limbs like a dog. M3GAN is quick to sow fear wherever she can, startling even Gemma with her swift adaptation. The scientist wants to keep her niece and career out of harm’s way, but M3GANS’s learning ability advances quickly, signifying the perilous reality of AI technology. There are plenty more of gasp-inducing scenes during the entirety of M3GAN, and the audience isn’t ready for it.
Reminding us of the dangers of abusing technology and replacing people with it, the director, along with writers James Wan and Akela Cooper, demonstrate the impressive and spine-tingling power of M3GAN through the equally impressive performance of Violet McGraw. The young actress, known for The Haunting of Hill House and Dr. Sleep, is a perfect element of this extraordinary duo. McGraw brings so much emotion to the narrative, especially in the finale where Cady has to take matters into her own hands and protect herself and her aunt.
M3GAN gives us everything we want in a camp horror, but the film also contains surprising depth. In one scene, a psychologist asks Gemma about her doll and wonders how it will affect a child’s relationship with their parents, whose role as nurturers can now be so easily replaced. Johnstone’s latest takes this matter on and ponders the role of technology in young kids’ lives and how it influences them. At the same time, it’s a cautionary tale that warns us about the misuse of robotics and reminds us of the irreplaceable bond between human beings – no matter how advanced or layered technology is.
M3GAN is sure to get a similar audience reaction as Malignant or Barbarian. The film’s bizarre choices and M3GAN’s entire AI persona paradoxically make so much sense as the titular character delivers camp, humor, and chills – all at the same time. McGraw as Cady beguiles and moves you, while Williams’ Gemma continually impresses you in performing her character’s genius. M3GAN is an instant horror classic that blends conventional horror elements with themes of loss, loneliness, and family in a bulletproof, titanium package.
M3GAN is now playing in theaters.