One of the reasons why horror is one of my favorite genres is because more often than not, it’s allowed to just be fun. It doesn’t have to be game-changing for the genre, it doesn’t have to take our breath away, and it doesn’t have to have the most wildly complex plot just to be a good time. Some people might think that makes the story sub-par, especially if the terror/horror elements aren’t up to par (which can be subjective, anyway) but in my opinion, as long as it’s a solid story from start to finish, it can still be just what you need in a spooky flick.
And in my humble little nerdy opinion, M3GAN was exactly that.
If you haven’t caught any of the absolutely wild and campy promo of this movie, M3GAN is a horror movie about a life-size doll with artificial intelligence created by a roboticist, Gemma, who works for a famous toy company that’s looking to out-do their competitors. In an attempt to give Gemma’s passion project a chance to succeed, she brings M3GAN home to spend time with her niece, Cady, who’s parents just passed away in a car accident, with the dual purpose of testing M3GAN’s features and helping bring Cady out of her depression. With the main directives for M3GAN to keep her primary user (Cady) safe and happy, she starts acting out in ways no one predicted.
When I saw the promotional clips for this movie, I was immediately sold. Seeing that uncanny valley, life-size murder doll dancing around before she grabs a machete for her murderous rampage, I knew this movie would either be so bad it would be good, or it would just be a good, fun time because of its modern-day Child’s Play sort of vibe. The level of camp, drama, and quite frankly, sight of this doll getting on all fours to chase after a child pulled me in so fast, it’s like it practically bullied the price of a movie ticket right out of me.
It was a little slow getting into the thick of the plot, but it needed a careful setup, as there were a lot of moving parts to address. The magnitude of the car accident that killed Cady’s parents, Gemma’s obsession with creating M3GAN, the pressure she was under to keep creating toys that didn’t ignite her creativity, the awkwardness that comes with an aunt becoming the legal guardian for her niece, and several unpredictable forces that challenged the two main characters took some time to establish. Looking back at it, I’m glad they took that time, because it increased the impact of the rest of the story.
Once the foundation was laid down, and it got us all nicely buckled in, I was ready for the wild ride. While the subtle goofiness that comes with a “life-like” doll that turns murderous already made the movie worth while (and the writing constantly cracks jokes about just how “life-like” she is), it had a surprisingly deeper plot than I imagined. It touched on a lot around the affects of childhood trauma, and even a little bit about how the pressure put on us to succeed in as little time as possible can be detrimental to more than just our own quality of life.
I think what I enjoyed most about M3GAN is that it was just fun. You could argue that it was predictable, that the subject matter led to a string of cliches as the movie progressed, but personally, I don’t feel like it needed to be unpredictable and different when they did such a fantastic job at making this movie feel modern and relevant. It all felt natural, like it was guiding us on a lazy river of spooky scary events about a doll that mutilates delinquent children while making snarky remarks about the situation. I just love a horror villain that doesn’t take anything too seriously, because it allows us to get a bit of laughter in during a moment that could otherwise just be plain terrifying. Don’t get me wrong, I love some straight-up terror, but making the villain both terrifying and funny is always a brilliant move, in my book.
Something I will say that I found unique about this movie compared to most horror movies is the type of relationship we see unfold between Gemma and Cady. We’re so used to seeing horror centered around single moms protecting their kids, nuclear families outrunning terror, couples trying to survive, or a quirky group of friends who get caught up in something scarier than they were prepared for, but I found it so refreshing that this centered around the relationship between an aunt and niece. As an uncle, I can’t even imagine how I’d balance the pressure to succeed in a competitive industry, having to be my niece and nephew’s legal guardian, all while finding out that an invention of mine is murdering people. To see this movie focus on this dynamic that a lot of us can relate to, despite not seeing this type of relationship play out often, I thought it was a great way to create a framework for how these two characters would help each other grow.
Overall, if I were to have to put a rating on it, I’d give M3GAN a solid 4/5. It didn’t do anything genre-defying, and it wasn’t necessarily ground-breaking in any way, but it was still an enjoyable time from start to finish. It had its own, distinct personality, the writers knew what they wanted to achieve, and it progressed so naturally that nothing felt forced or out of left field. It was also just scary enough to keep me on edge during some tense situations, creating scenarios where I genuinely was concerned about whether or not characters would make it to the end of the movie.
If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it! It was definitely worth the price of a movie ticket. If creepy dolls aren’t your thing though, I totally get it. M3GAN herself was unsettling to look at, but if it helps comfort you, she was absolutely the least serious part of the movie, and that’s what made it such a joy to watch. There’s just something about an artificially intelligent robot meant to be a kids’ toy, that looks like a young girl, but with the witty, comedic timing of a full-grown adult, that made the movie fun, even if the uncanny look in her eyes was enough to want to throw her to the wood-chipper.