Horror has long held a fascination with subverting innocence, and part of that has meant making horror icons out of children’s toys. Chucky, Annabelle, and Jigsaw have all sent chills down the spine of moviegoers in the last few years. However, Blumhouse Productions’ new film M3GAN looks to take things into the 21st Century.
Allison Williams plays Gemma, a self-absorbed toy designer whose career-focused life is disturbed when her sister dies, and she becomes Guardian to her niece Cady (Violet Mcgraw). Ill-equipped for parenthood, Gemma gives Cady the prototype for M3GAN, a lifelike AI doll that cares for her.
While initially the bond is strong, M3GAN misinterprets her protocols, developing a violent protectiveness over Cady that threatens everyone around her.
M3GAN is campy satire
The film aims for campy satire over an elevated look at modern technology. Rather than comment on our reliance on devices, director Gerard Johnstone mines his plot and characters for grizzly laughs. For the most part, it’s great fun, with the unsettling presence of the title character (a mixture of human performance and CG trickery) being both hilarious and uncomfortable.
There are certain moments that are clearly meant for the film’s viral marketing, such as an unusual dance sequence and perhaps the most disturbing rendition of the song Titanium you’ll ever hear. This tone, placing the film’s absurdity in a world that seems only slightly removed from our own, is one of its greatest strengths.
Slightly stiff performances
The performances are stiff at times, working better when revelling in the characters’ selfishness than the few times when sincerity is called for. There is a loose moral journey about the importance of moving on through grief, but those moments rarely ring true when wedged between the dystopian madness.
Williams, best known in this genre as Rose Armitage from Get Out, is an interesting lead. The dynamic of an unfit, and even unwilling guardian sees her prioritise innovation over parenting, making the spiralling plot easier to swallow and providing some dark chuckles.
McGraw doesn’t steal the show as Cady, but has enough sadness in her eyes to play her part. Of the supporting cast, Ronny Chieng (Crazy Rich Asians, Shang Chi) is the stand out as Gemma’s boss, an ostentatious character that avoids caricature.
M3GAN could have been a lot more thoughtful, doing for smart tech what Psycho did for hotel showers. It settles for something more crowd-pleasing, which is no bad thing. Entertaining enough to earn its place as one of 2023’s first breakout hits, and to make its title character the stuff of creepy legend.
M3GAN is in UK cinemas from 13th January.
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- Titanium dance
- Ronny Chieng's performance
- M3GAN is super creepy
- Crowd-pleasing horror
- Stiff performances