Review- M3GAN (2023)

After a tragic accident leaves Cady (Violet McGraw) an orphan, her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) takes her niece under her wing. With heaps of inexperience, and a busy schedule Gemma creates a state-of-the-art A.I. doll named M3GAN to keep Cady company. However, it is not long until M3GAN’s intelligence enters a deadly path.

It has only been a mere week since Gerard Johnstone’s M3GAN was theatrically released, but the horror powerhouse that is Blumhouse Productions has announced that this doll-gone-wrong movie will be followed by a sequel titled M3GAN 2.0. So, the question is, how good must M3GAN have been to have garnered its budget tenfold, as well as received viral success? Well, whilst the film certainly has its perks, there are a few restraints…

Murderous dolls are no stranger to the market, with nearly every movie fan being well acquainted with the likes of Chucky and Tiffany and the cursed puppets from the Puppet Master franchise. What makes all of these killer figurine films beloved is the niche territory of off-kilter humour, leaning on the irreverent side of comedy, along with a dose of gruesome kills and bloody antics. Not that cinema has to be soaked in viscera to be worthy of acclaim, but the brazen disposition that comes with doll horror owes itself to explore bold gore and gnarly visuals. Herein lies some of M3GAN’s contention. 

A PG-13 rating band does not often hurt a film, yet the tonal distance from ‘what could have been’ in M3GAN’s story calls back to the multiple cuts that were made in post-production. Upon the trailer showing M3GAN dancing as if she was partaking in the latest social media craze, the marketing swiftly aimed the upcoming film to be a teen-based, viral-driven horror; subsequently meaning that many scenes were carefully cut and twisted to provide a more rose-tinted outcome. Even the film’s co-writer, Akela Cooper, spoke on the unrated cut, commenting on the cut scenes showing M3GAN at her most savage. Quite interestingly, there are a few strains of wickedness that slip in amidst the diluted graphics, particularly in one scene involving a nasty, queasy ear pull…With all of its success, perhaps one day the director’s cut will make an appearance. 

Interestingly enough, what does result from the lack of brutality is a keen focus on the film’s humour. M3GAN exudes the most sass anyone has ever seen from a killer doll. Whether it’s the hair flips, impromptu singing sessions, or the sarky one-liners, M3GAN is one of the most iconic deadly toys. It’s these spurts of rambunctious ludicrousness that keep the lack of depth from bordering on dull. The film takes on a campy persona that introduces self-referential, cruel humour that seemingly understands the exaggerative tone of the film. Considering that many of the big horror releases over the years have teetered on the sardonic side (e.g. Freaky, Studio 666, Willy’s Wonderland, and Little Monsters), could 2023 be the year for studios to break away from the seriousness seen within the likes of A24 horror to live on the wild side again? 

Despite the general humdrum in the film, what does a fantastic job of keeping the spirit alive is the design of M3GAN. Her appearance is both incredibly realistic, with her glassy eyes somewhat holding more personality than any other character. However, working simultaneously against this is the eerie ice-cold stares, robotic movements, and creepy silicone skin that the A.I. bot beholds. This is greatly highlighted in the shadow-ridden, nighttime scenes, showing M3GAN in all her harrowing lifelikeness.

M3GAN thrives in a subtle meta boundary where the viewer and screen almost negotiate a contract that vows for M3GAN to be an entertaining watch, but not necessarily anything more than that. And what seeps in via this is all the components for a bountiful amount of sequels, prequels, and possibly a spin-off tv show; which I’m sure will soon follow in M3GAN 2.0’s wake.

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