When A.I. goes wrong. We’ve seen it all before, but never quite like this. Birthed from Akela Cooper’s screenplay, with the horror-driven minds of James Wan and Jason Blum in the production seats, M3GAN boasts a brilliant mixture of satire and scares sure to delight horror-comedy fans.
It all starts out as a harmless, well-meaning invention – M3GAN, an A.I. doll built to be a devoted companion and best friend for the child paired with her. Sounds great right? Only with time, her heightened sensibilities and adaptive learning tech become too much for the humans that created her to control.
Akela Cooper and James Wan have a lot to say when it comes to our dependance on technology and trust/mistrust of fully-automated systems, and they choose do so through a tongue-in-cheek wink at the audience. The self-aware approach is the reason for this narrative’s success – showing they understand the audience by leaning into the unavoidable ridiculousness (and real-world relatability) of the premise. The satirical themes and social commentaries are well integrated and easily understood without any jarring departures from what everyone wants to see – M3GAN letting loose.
This is a horror-comedy, though it certainly skews in favour of the laughs. That’s not to say it doesn’t still bring the chills – when M3GAN gets that murderous look in her eye and starts hitting back with snarky comments, you can’t help but fear what’s about to go down. It’s just that it’s clear there’s room for a much more violent and blood-soaked romp amongst all of the hilarity that ensues. The film’s viral popularity on social media certainly helped influence a more mellowed cut – a move that makes sense when trying to maximise reach. The good thing to note is that this doesn’t look to have impacted the quality of the final product, merely altering the tone to be more palatable to (slightly) younger fans.
Admittedly, it didn’t hook me right away. It took a minute to find its footing and really settle in to its distinct tone, having me initially a little worried, but once it did it became the ridiculous laugh-filled thrill ride I was hoping for. Director Gerard Johnstone knew when to go for the silly laughs and when to dial in some of that horror, creating an end result that felt balanced in its imbalance. He also did well in dedicating time to building arcs for the characters, specifically Allison Williams’ Gemma. Her struggle to balance her demanding work life with newly becoming a legal guardian is a key point from the beginning, strengthening the character and leaving room for some growth.
When it comes to M3GAN herself, the combined performance of Amie Donald (physical) and Jenna Davis (voice) works a treat. The physicality of what Amie brings to the role is eerily robotic yet uncomfortably lifelike. I say this as the utmost of compliments – bringing the character to life in a way that’s about as chilling and memorable as Chucky himself. Despite her creepy demeanour and love for David Guetta tunes, she’s one doll I can’t wait to see more of in the already-reported sequel. Allison Williams taps into her Get Out (2017) experience to channel that fine line between quirky and serious. She’s fun to watch, and her performance is complemented well by the young Violet McGraw, who really owns her scenes.
In the end, M3GAN is yet another surprise horror hit for January – satisfying that imaginary quota of one per year. Akela Cooper doubles down on the camp she experimented with in Malignant (2021), combining with James Wan’s horror mastery to create a uniquely memorable theatre experience. Not sure whether you’re up for some laughs or scares? Trust M3GAN to bring plenty of both, embracing its comical side at almost any chance it gets.