This film may not be traditionally scary, but its message and acting keep it from being boring– and as a bonus, Seattle is the setting!
“M3GAN,” directed by Gerard Johnstone and produced by James Wan (known best for a horror staple: “The Conjuring”), is a cautionary tale that warns against the reliance of technology and artificial intelligence. This is a more relevant topic than ever in 2023. Gemma, played by Allison Williams, a talented roboticist based in Seattle who must take care of her orphaned niece, Cady, played by Violet McGraw. In an effort to help Cady work through her grief, Gemma provides her with a realistic robot, M3GAN (a stylized version of the name Megan, short for “Model 3 Generative Android”), whose duty is to protect Cady and be her friend. It seems she can do it all – M3GAN is seen dancing, playing, reading bedtime stories, reinforcing rules, you name it. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that M3GAN’s intelligence is dangerous, as is Cady’s attachment to her.
The film is primarily science fiction, driven by technology in Gemma’s profession and its position on AI. It has a campy and over-the-top quality that helps sell the strange plot and visuals, such as a lifelike doll galloping through the forest.
However, while the film is categorized as horror, it is not particularly scary. The focus is on the effects and concept, along with action sequences that were enjoyable and at times intense. The acting overall added a genuine quality to the film and the execution was polished and entertaining. There was plenty of attention to detail with the design of M3GAN herself as well as costumes and sets.
The film examines loss and attachment in an intriguing way, and its warnings against technology avoid anything too cliche. The film is not overly serious, intentionally bringing humorous images and situations to its action sequences, such as M3GAN’s menacing dancing, now practically iconic. This helps it flow and makes it more fun to watch. Many have said it is hilarious, but the funny moments are used sparingly, and the film was more subdued than expected. It never goes too far as to be obnoxious or unappealing, as it is still grounded by the acting and story.
Overall, the film is solid but not terrifying or gripping. It spends a lot of its time on setup and establishing characters, which is not a negative, but it doesn’t leave a lot of time for horror elements, which is what it is marketed as. Ultimately it finds itself to be closer to a dark comedy than a horror flick. M3GAN as a character is entertaining, and the storyline is genuine enough that it was a perfectly acceptable experience.
“M3GAN” is currently playing in theaters. With the production company’s past it is likely that it will be available to stream on Peacock in the future.