Movie Review: M3GAN

I support women in STEM: slaughtering, torturing, eviscerating, and murder.

Which is what makes M3GAN such a great fit for me, actually. Directed by Gerard Johnstone (of Housebound fame – an exceptionally fun take on the haunted house horror, if you haven’t seen it already), it’s a slice of sci-fi high camp controlled chaos, all wrapped around the deranged robot of the title – Megan.

The titular Megan is a prototype toy designed by Gemma (Allison Williams) and gifted to her recently-orphaned niece Cady (Violet McGraw), a life-size girl doll developed to provide emotional enrichment to the lonely little girl’s life. Obviously, though, it doesn’t take long for things to go gorily wrong, as Megan starts forming her own ideas about how best to raise Cady.

There’s so much in the detail to love about M3GAN, I almost don’t know where to start: the perfect design of the doll itself, the cutesy balance between girl’s toy design, uncanny valley, and Uber Jason making an instantly memorable mark, the cold and calculating tech developments of the children’s toy niche reflected in her nascent cruelty perfectly. The inherent contradiction of sweet kid’s toys (oh, that perfectly-rendered children’s TV toy ad as the opener took me to back to Saturday morning cartoon ad breaks in an instant) mixed with slasher villain is a smart re-invention of Chucky for a new generation, and Allison Williams’ Gemma feels rich and well-drawn, more focused on her career than on unexpectedly raising her niece.

Pulling off a movie like this one is such a balancing act; it’s dryly satirical, taking swipes at our current dependence on technology, while at the same time having to deliver on the horror or risk failing it’s main target audience. But, honestly, I was seriously impressed with how well Johnstone and the cast manage to find that balance. The slow build and effective stalk-and-slash scares are solidly unsettling, and the sharp satire makes way for some genuinely hilarious moments – I found myself laughing out loud in the cinema a few times, and not just at the self-aware camp on show in this deliberately odd script (side note: this is co-written by James Wan, who is very much in his “fuck it, why not?” era of screenwriting, and I, for one, can’t get enough). Most importantly, though, M3GAN knows where to slow things down and take itself seriously, finding genuine pathos between Gemma and Cady that lends the finale some real bite (and stab, too).

For what it is, it’s hard to think of any better iteration of M3GAN than the one Brian Johnstone presents here. A controlled, slick, and confident blend of satire, horror, comedy, and drama, it’s instantly memorable, with Megan herself offering some major franchise potential as a paranoid representation of increased surveillance and technological obsession. I, for one, am covering my phone microphone as we speak.

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By Lou MacGregor

(header image via Vanity Fair)

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