Blumhouse’s creepy doll heralds the return of bonkers-fun horror
Are you afraid of dolls or maybe just mildly creeped out by them? What about android dolls that are meant to cheer you up about your dead parents? Well, I don’t know what to tell you, but that’s the premise of M3GAN, a new sci-fi horror flick from Blumhouse.
A young girl named Cady (Violet McGraw) survives a horrible car crash that takes the lives of both her parents. She falls into the reluctant custody of her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) who works as a robotics engineer in the R&D department of a major toy company. The timing of Gemma having to figure out how to make space in her overtly quiet and meticulous home life for Cady is awful, with Gemma under pressure to deliver a new toy prototype at work. On top of that, her boss shoots down her passion project, a super advanced but expensive robot.
M3GAN ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Gerard Johnstone
Written by:Akela Cooper, Story by James Wan
Starring: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Amie Donald
Running time: 102 min
While struggling to connect with Cady, Gemma has an epiphany that she can kill two birds with one titanium stone. She decides to forge forward with creating her robot to both relieve the burden of being Cady’s guardian and as a moonshot effort to make her robot the new hot toy at the company. That toy is M3GAN, short for “Model 3 Generative Android.” She’s cool, she’s knowledgeable and emotionally intelligent. Gemma’s company and Cady are over the moon about M3GAN. The end, right? Well, as super advanced robots are wont to do, M3GAN becomes murderous.
From there it’s your typical slasher in the tradition of killer doll films like Child’s Play, Annabelle, and Dolls (1986). And like those films, M3GAN trades on the uncanny. We can all agree there is just something undeniably unnerving about an animated humanoid doll, especially when it’s modeled with childlike features. What sets this film apart, though, is M3GAN’s charisma and well-informed clapbacks. You’ve no doubt seen the dance already.
M3GAN is much more than a yassified Child’s Play film. (Oddly enough, the most recent Child’s Play film ventured into similar smart device and artificial intelligence territory.) The combination of producer and story credit James Wan (The Conjuring), director Gerard Johnstone (Housebound), and screenwriter Akela Cooper (Malignant) arrives at a silly romp that wants you to not only know the inside joke but share it with all your friends.
Looking back on this cultural moment in horror films, I think M3GAN will find itself among films like Barbarian and Malignant as the early stewards of the movement away from the explorations of trauma and grief of the last few years back towards horror for the sake of sheer bonkers enjoyment.
If that sounds like fun to you, I just so happen to know a robot girl who would love to be your companion to the movie theater.