M3GAN (Horror, Sci-Fi) (2022)
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Writer: Akela Cooper, James Wan
Stars: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Amie Donald, Jenna Davis
When a nine-year-old girl tragically loses her parents in a car accident, she moves in with her aunt. As they struggle to connect, her aunt introduces a new member to the family in the form of an AI companion doll, which becomes a source of trouble.
Following his debut with comedy horror, ‘’Housebound’’; Gerard Johnstone further develops his career within the horror genre with ‘’M3GAN’’. Premiering in Los Angeles late 2022, it’s a hybrid killer doll horror with elements of dark comedy using some animatronics. Filming occurred in Los Angeles, California and Auckland, New Zealand, re-creating a mid-America suburbia feel. It has been produced by Blumhouse Productions, Atomic Monster Productions and Divide/Conquer while being distributed by Universal Pictures.
After Cady (Violet McGraw) loses her parents in a car accident while going on a ski-trip, her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) adopts her as a foster parent. As they struggle to connect emotionally, with Cady still grieving her parents, Gemma introduces her to M3GAN (Amie Donald/Jenna Davis), an AI-based robot companion doll she has secretively been developing at the toy company she works for. M3GAN immensely helps to make Cady comfortable, but both the doll and Cady are starting to develop in unhealthy ways.
Within a scenario that sometimes seems like a ‘’Black Mirror’’ episode, ‘’M3GAN’’ presents an over-reliance on electronics and technology. Much like the horror genre treated clowns, dolls have been ingrained in our collective memory as creepy. Constantly improving AI technology and even showing an end to traditional parenting within its narrative, ‘’M3GAN’’ is somewhat of a social commentary.
Foremost a horror, ‘’M3GAN’’ stands out as it successfully transcends boundaries within the genre. Our killer doll in M.3.G.A.N because, of course, it’s an acronym for something. Is suitably creepy but intermittent bouts of song and dance, and the horrendous but inherently wacky murders comprise dark humour too.
There’s plenty of breathing room within the work of Johnstone, Wan and Cooper, as Williams’ performance stands out due to the drama thriller aspects. It’s truly a pleasure to see her in a role different from ‘’Get Out’’, allowing for slightly more nuanced character work. That said, younger actors in McGraw and Donald also make a mark, the latter of which wears the M.3.G.A.N costume and makes the visual movement fall into place.
Many viewers might be surprised by the use of practical effects, through a mixed effort between animatronics and using an in-costume actress. ‘’M3GAN’’ might initially seem like something we’ve seen before viewing, yet the narrative provides much more, using world-building effectively and not relying only on the killer doll.
About an hour into the film, having nurtured a fair bond between viewers and the characters, is when M.3.G.A.N’s antics begin. Yet, the manner of why the AI begins malfunctioning wasn’t that satisfying and overly obvious. It had to happen one way or another, but it could’ve profited from a more intelligent script, even if it is cherry-picking from what I see as a fairly successful film. Within the drama and comedy bits, I found the most gratification, a good example being the toy company executive complaining about another company copying their Furby clone, which would suggest ‘’M3GAN’’ takes place in an alternate universe, yet Hasbro is mentioned later on.
As ‘’M3GAN’’ came across my planning, I wasn’t excited. Horror isn’t my forte and something like Johnstone’s feature wasn’t initially appealing. Williams, though, bears a ton of weight here within a creative hybrid genre-flick that deserves the sequel it seems to be getting.
Will we see M3G4N at some point?