Living Doll: M3GAN Plays with Horror in Hilarious Ways
More charming than Chucky, cuter than Annabelle and just enough crazy to give Tiffany Valentine and Talky Tina a run for their money, M3GAN is something special. Directed by Gerard Johnstone (Housebound) and penned by Akela Cooper based on a story by producer James Wan of The Conjuring films, M3GAN looks to revitalize the box office during a sleepy January by asking the all-important question: What if HAL 9000 was an American Girl doll who did TikTok dances?
The P-13 story of M3GAN is simple enough. After her parents are smooshed by a snow truck, young Cady (Violet McGraw) goes to live with her career-minded auntie Gemma (Allison Williams), a robotics engineer at a toy company. To win cool points with her grieving niece, she perfects a prototype she’s been tinkering with named M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android), the perfect petrifying playmate for a young girl. Soon the duo become inseparable and M3GAN (played by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis) becomes attached. Very attached. And really, that’s where the fun begins.
Even before Skynet Skipper comes online, the audience is introduced to a bevy of caricatures we want M3GAN to harm later. A nosy neighbor with an annoying dog, a shitty boss with a quick temper, a sneaky coworker whose only personality appears to be backstabbing– they’re all exasperating obstacles for M3GAN, who tears into them like tissue paper for the audience’s amusement.
A nightmare-inducing AI-conjured antagonist with large, dead eyes that only Margaret Keane could love, the titular figure is captivating, thanks to her unnerving delivery of lines and sunny disposition, which she keeps even as she rips the ears off of pre-teens and runs on all fours through a forest floor in her cute Macy’s ready-to-wear daytime look. She is fun to watch and as an audience, you want to see what she will do next.
There is no doubt that M3GAN will be a hit. She’s already a viral sensation thanks to her slick dance moves and a brilliant marketing campaign that started early and strong on social media. There is a message about the dangers of technology and the need for human connection, especially during times of need, and it becomes surprisingly emotional. Williams and McGraw deliver strong performances, even as they compete with four-feet of silicon nightmare fuel.
The joy of horror is that it can be campy and fun, and still be celebrated. Not every movie needs to be The Shining or The Silence of the Lambs to be acclaimed and revered by the film community and fans. It can be Puppetmaster or Gremlins or even Ghoulies and you can still have a damn good time. This is where M3GAN lives– somewhere between riveting and ridiculous.
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