M3GAN is a new doll horror movie, where AI and not a supernatural demonic force drive the plot. A Terminator in Annabelle disguise, if you will – and I was pleasantly surprised that it worked quite well. I didn’t expect to enjoy this much. Read our M3GAN movie review here!
M3GAN is the latest horror movie in the doll horror subgenre. I want to be completely honest and say that I really wasn’t excited watching this one. After watching the various trailers that have been released, I just felt numb or annoyed rather than intrigued.
While I’m a fan of both the director, doll horror movies in general, and the actors, these trailers just did not work for me.
That’s why it was quite the pleasure to watch the movie and find that it didn’t have whatever vibe those trailers had. Obviously, some of what you see in the trailer is still in the final movie. However, the wacky and frenzied atmosphere is considerably more subdued. It’s camp, yes, but not “just” a crazy doll running around while people are being stupid.
Continue reading our M3GAN movie review below. Find it in theaters (in many countries worldwide) now.
From demonic possession to AI
Although M3GAN can quickly be tossed into the “doll horror” category, this is actually not entirely accurate. Sure, she looks like a doll, but unlike other iconic horror dolls – such as Chucky and Annabelle – M3GAN is actually an AI robot. Not “just” a doll that comes to life when something possesses it.
Then again, M3gan is actually created by a toy company, so that also leans into the whole “doll” aspect. M3GAN stands for “Model 3 Generative Android,” so it’s effectively a robot in a doll’s body.
As the story evolves – which various trailers and the horror label reveals – we have a genuine “Terminator in Annabelle-disguise” on our hands. She might look small and innocent but this “toy” is built to constantly learn from humans, outlive humans and be extremely resilient.
Of course, she has to be built to last, if she’s to help and protect the children she befriends (or rather, is connected with). In the prototype version, M3GAN is connected to the inventor’s niece, Cady, who has just lost her parents in an accident and now lives with her aunt.
A young girl like that (having suffered loss in so many ways) needs a friend in a huge way. And that’s what she gets. In fact, Cady spends virtually all her waking hours with M3gan.
The great cast
The little niece, Cady, is played beautifully by Violet McGraw. A huge talent in a small body. Whenever people mention her name in relation to this film, she is consistently referred to as being the younger sister of Madeleine McGraw, who was brilliant in The Black Phone (as the younger sister of the main character).
And yes, the two are indeed sisters, but Violet McGraw also has quite an impressive horror resume. The Black Phone, however, is a Blumhouse production and that’s probably why it’s highlighted. Quite the shame, since horror fans will surely recognize Violet McGraw from Doctor Sleep and especially The Haunting of Hill House, where she played Nell as a child.
The inventor of M3GAN is played by Allison Williams, who made her feature film debut in Get Out (2017), which is actually from Blumhouse. After that, she also played the main role in the insanely violent The Perfection (2018) on Netflix, so she has a good career in horror going.
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The M3gan doll itself is also played by a real-life little girl. The ultra-flexible Amie Donald, who was also in the Netflix genre series Sweet Tooth as “Maya Monkey”. Although she is wrapped in a thick layer of silicone, you can clearly catch on to the attitude of this performer. It is wonderful and a much better choice than doing purely CGI.
Watch M3GAN in theaters now!
Even though mostly the names James Wan and Jason Blum are mentioned when it comes to M3GAN, this movie is by a wonderful new director. The director of M3GAN is New Zealander Gerard Johnstone, who made his feature film debut in 2014 with the highly recommended horror comedy Housebound. This is only his second feature film, but he’s clearly a good choice.
Of course, James Wan and Jason Blum are both producers of the film. James Wan also helped create the story which is a solid alternative in the doll horror genre to his own supernatural Annabelle (a spin-off of James Wan’s The Conjuring).
The story was created with Akela Cooper, who is also the sole screenplay writer. She also wrote the script for Malignant (2021) which is the latest film directed by James Wan. I wasn’t exactly crazy about that one, but she also wrote Hell Fest, and I liked that better.
The next project from Akela Cooper will also be with James Wan. It’s The Nun 2, which is currently in pre-production.
What works really well for me in M3GAN is the social commentary. It creates a direct relevance to our everyday life. Yes, even though this is a sci-fi horror story. There is a solid focus on how much child-rearing is left to various machines in an everyday life. A world where an iPad has effectively become a nanny for many busy parents.
Fortunately, this part is also served with a healthy heap of dark humor. The same humor is also used when M3gan sits down at a piano and plays the 80s pop classic “Toy Soldiers” by Martika. A well-chosen song choice by M3gan that does not bode well.
M3GAN was released in US theaters (and other countries) on January 6, 2023.
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Writer: Akela Cooper
Cast: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Lori Dungey, Stephane Garneau-Monten
M3GAN is a marvel of artificial intelligence, a life-like doll programmed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. Designed by brilliant toy-company roboticist Gemma, M3GAN can listen and watch and learn as she becomes friend and teacher, playmate and protector, for the child she is bonded to.
When Gemma suddenly becomes the caretaker of her orphaned 8-year-old niece, Cady, Gemma’s unsure and unprepared to be a parent. Under intense pressure at work, Gemma decides to pair her M3GAN prototype with Cady in an attempt to resolve both problems—a decision that will have unimaginable consequences.