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John’s Horror Corner: M3GAN (2022), AI-gone-wrong meets a killer doll movie in this impressive, heartfelt and wildly brutal popcorn horror movie.

April 10, 2023

MY CALL: This is fun, feisty, violent Sci-Horror and still a finely made film overall with strong performances. Strongly recommended. MORE MOVIES LIKE M3GAN: The reboot of Child’s Play (2019) and Ex Machina (2015) spring to mind. Then maybe Child’s Play (1988), Child’s Play 2 (1990), and then I might skip all the way to Curse of Chucky (2013) and Cult of Chucky (2017)—not that I didn’t enjoy them all to some degree. Other quality evil doll films include The Boy (2016), Annabelle: Creation (2017), Dolly Dearest (1991), Dolls (1987) and Puppet Master (1989).

A tragic accident leaves Cady (Violet McGraw; The Haunting of Hill House, Doctor Sleep)bereft of her parents and in custody of her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams; Get Out, The Perfection), who isn’t the most maternal type. Their relationship is strained, they were never close, and we feel that. We sympathize for both of them. But eventually they connect through Gemma’s work with advanced robotic toys. An up-and-coming AI engineer, Gemma has developed M3GAN, the next generation of AI companion toy.

Cady’s introduction to M3GAN is disarming, provocative and sincere. The more time they spend together, the more effective a companion M3GAN becomes. M3GAN teaches Cady about basic science and it couldn’t be more adorable. There’s a demonstration of M3GAN before a group of investors which was truly throat-tightening and emotionally powerful. The social development of M3GAN makes sense, and nothing ever feels overly far-fetched… given the premise.

As for her programming, M3GAN’s main directive is to protect Cady from all harm, physical and emotional. Sounds ideal, right? As if we’ve never seen this go wrong before in movies. So, of course, M3GAN becomes increasingly protective, and things go increasingly wrong. The neighbor’s mean dog, a mean boy at school, Gemma being stern with Cady—all become triggers for M3GAN. And accordingly, it gets violent.

I saw the unrated version. So I wonder how graphic these deaths would be in the PG-13 version. But let me tell you, I saw the movie we were meant to see, for sure! The “ear scene” is wonderfully over-the-top gross, with somewhat silly but still great effects. The “tool shed” death scene was another gory delight. There’s some serious blood-gushing stabbery to be enjoyed.

And then there’s her movement. Her cold expressions, her creepy dancing, and her awkwardly creepy aimalistic running. When this murderous robot is doing her thing, she is smooth and calculating, like the T-1000 but with modern highspeed wi-fi. When she blows a short circuit, she goes into full twitchy Exorcist (1973) mode. And by the finale, we wander into some wild shots reminiscent of the end of The Terminator (1984). A lot of the visuals and plot points will feel very familiar to well-seasoned fans of Sci-Horror. But I’d contest that director Gerard Johnstone (Housebound) keeps the execution of these familiar and satisfying beats fresh! Strongly recommended!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2023 6:18 pm

    Love the review! It really is a fun and well-made movie

    • John Leavengood permalink
      April 12, 2023 6:48 pm

      Thanks. I didn’t have much to say besides reviewing its merits. But it deserves every positive review folks can muster. I’d hate for people to skip it expecting it was phoned in.

  2. April 12, 2023 2:30 pm

    Great review! As creepy as this seemed I was on the fence, but now I’ve got to see it.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      April 12, 2023 6:47 pm

      Totally worth your time! Very well made.

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