While the global pandemic makes discerning tends difficult, the idea that January is a dumping ground for bad horror movies has slowly changed over the years. Once upon a time, stinkers like Texas Chainsaw 3D, The Relic, The Unborn, I, Frankenstein, etc., made their way into cineplexes in January. They reflected a complete lack of confidence from the studios responsible for producing them in the first place. But Escape Room defied expectation in 2019 – it did decent box office dollars and it was surprisingly good. One year later, Underwater underperformed at the box office, but it’s a better-than-expected effort. Now viral sensation M3gan hints that maybe the recent break in underwhelming January releases (COVID notwithstanding) is a thing. Critics have loved it and it’s a runaway box office success.
Following the death of her parents in a tragic car accident, Kady goes to live with her aunt Gemma. A robotics engineer working a high tech toy company, Gemma struggles to connect with her niece. But Gemma sees an opportunity to perfect her latest project by pairing it with Kady – M3gan, an android robot doll that uses artificial intelligence to learn and become the ‘perfect’ playmate. As M3gan bonds with Kady and learns at an alarming rate, however, her directive to protect her child takes a drastic turn.
M3gan Compensates for a Lack of Originality With Fun Thrills
On one hand, the narrative structure of M3gan is so totally predictable. If you’ve watched enough horror movies – and you’ve been watching for a while – there’s little doubt where the story is heading. It’s a plot beat perfected in the 80s and 90s by mediocre horror offerings like Deadly Friend or Man’s Best Friend or any horror movie where someone creates somethings that’s obviously a terrible idea. Different characters run afoul of the creation with predictably terrible results. Though one character sees how badly things are going, everyone else ignores them. And M3gan – based on a story by James Wan and Akela Cooper’s screenplay – offers few deviations from this formula. As good as M3Gan is, it’s not treading any new ground.
What separates M3gan from similar fare is its own self-awareness. This is a silly horror movie that knows just how silly it is …
When a boy bullies Cady it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen next. And the neighbour with the poorly trained dog – she doesn’t stand a chance. As compared to other killer doll entries, M3gan also lacks the edge of Chucky in Child’s Play or the actual scares of Annabelle. What separates M3gan from similar fare is its own self-awareness. This is a silly horror movie that knows just how silly it is and completely embraces it. Maybe it’s not right to say that this highly enjoyable horror entry is light – though the unrated cut promises a bit more carnage – but it’s certainly a zippier movie than most of its predecessors.
M3gan May Have Given Horror Fans Its Newest Franchise Character
If it’s not a particularly scary movie, M3gan gets a few things very right. First and foremost, director Gerard Johnstone (Homebound) keeps Akela Cooper’s (Hell Fest, Malignant) story moving at a brisk pace that gives the whole proceedings the feeling of a roller coaster. And Cooper – whose had her hand in a few good horror movies – puts a smart upgrade on the killer doll trope. While the Child’s Play reboot struggled somewhat to mix artificial intelligence with the familiar subgenre conventions, Cooper turns its title character into the kind of viral sensation that should appeal to the TikTok generation. Look no further than the thriller’s dance scene – it’s a good demonstration of the exuberantly fun sense of humor that defines the movie.
And Cooper – whose had her hand in a few good horror movies – puts a smart upgrade on the killer doll trope.
In addition, M3gan finds just the right amount of relatable emotional drama to allow audiences to connect with its characters. In what’s a rather thankless role, Allison Williams (Get Out, The Perfection) anchors the movie as the brilliant and somewhat parentally irresponsible, Gemma. To some extent, it’s a less flashy role but it’s Williams’ character who lends the thriller its major emotional arc. In contrast, Ronny Chieng (Godzilla vs. Kong) adds some humor and energy in his supporting role as Gemma’s clueless boss. Child actor Violet McGraw is perfect in her role. Not surprisingly, Amie Donald and Jenna Davis – who team up to create the voice and movements of the title character – are absolute standouts.
M3gan Kicks Off 2023 On a Huge High For Horror
Despite a somewhat formulaic plot structure, M3gan avoids feeling derivative and is, ultimately, one of the most fun horror movies in recent memory. There’s an abundance of dark humor and winking at the audience here. Johnstone and company are in on the joke and everyone involved in this movie clearly is having a blast. Though it’s never really scary the jolts are fun and one suspects that when the unrated version gets its eventual release, we’ll get a wilder ride. Ultimately, M3gan is the first big horror hit of 2023 and likely the next big genre franchise.