After its first trailer was released — showing the titular doll performing a TikTok dance before killing someone — M3GAN became an internet phenomenon. Meme, social media trend, queer icon, bestie, you name it. Followed by some impeccable marketing that leaned into the film’s campiness: life-size troupes of the killer doll parading around, Twitter spars with Chucky, and a post on the Bratz Instagram. Targeting their largely queer fanbase, M3GAN had all the makings of a Gen Z hit. But are virality, killer style, and an icy Olsen twin stare enough to create a horror hit?
The answer is absolutely yes. Although it comes from an old horror lineage of killer dolls, M3GAN offers up a modern take on the tropes, trading out the usual Gothic houses and cracked porcelain for a tale of AI gone wrong — although that’s another trope in itself.
Indeed, Gerard Johnstone’s film starts like many mediocre movies. Eight-year-old orphan Cady (Violet McGraw) is sent to live with her busy workaholic aunt Gemma (Allison Williams). Except Gemma is a brilliant roboticist on the brink of a brilliant invention, the Model 3 Generative Android, M3GAN (voiced by Jenna Davis), programmed to be every child’s best caretaker and companion.
After a slow opening, M3GAN speeds up the film’s pace, not only offering Cady a true best friend but delivering to the audience the cool older sister we always wanted. Her fashion sense is designer-worthy (high fashion sunglasses, Mary Jane shoes, and babydoll dress complete with pussycat bow), her endless knowledge about the world, and her patience with Cady (mostly) unyielding. Not to mention that her sleek dance moves and perfectly auto-tuned singing vocals are genuinely delightful.
In terms of horror, M3GAN is light but fun. Her kills are predictable (she will end anyone who harms Cady, who she is programmed to protect) while still being inventive; her choice of victims are cruelly satisfying. To put it harshly, most of them had it coming. It’s in this way that M3GAN gets the audience to root for its villain (as in Jennifer’s Body, another queer icon of feminist horror). It invites us in with its campy, feminine aesthetic, keeping us captivated with its murderous heaping of justice on those who deserve it.
M3GAN’s ending feels a bit rushed, unfortunately including a cliched stand-off between M3GAN and the protagonists, but it does close with a welcome nod to her return. Now that Blumhouse has established a queer horror icon, hopefully, they’ll dial up the kills and campiness in M3GAN 2.0 and give their doll even more room to slay.
M3GAN will be available on VOD from February 24th
by Mia Kellner
Mia (she/her) is a fourth-year English Literature student at the University of St Andrews. Originally born in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, she grew up in Scotland, where she lives now. A few of her favourite films are the Harry Potter series, Arrival and Greta Gerwig’s 2019 Little Women adaptation. She loves watching anything with a nuanced female protagonist, as well as The Walking Dead TV universe, elevated horror and sci-fi. You can find her on Letterboxd.
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