‘M3GAN’: Gen Z’s Eerie, Technologically-Advanced Version of ‘Chucky’


Screengrab from the ‘M3GAN’ trailer.

Throughout the years, dozens of sci-fi stories have given us terrifying scenarios in which robots and artificial intelligence wreak havoc upon humanity: IRobot, Ex Machina, and more recently, The Mitchells vs. the Machines. No one can say we weren’t warned when our computers, iPhones, and microwaves destroy the world. Clearly, these stories haven’t been enough to convince us that we’re in danger. M3GAN could be the first movie to succeed at warning us of the great threat posed by technology.

M3GAN is a thrilling sci-fi comedy-horror film directed by Gerard Johnstone (Housebound) and written by Akela Cooper (Malignant). The story follows Cady, a recently orphaned girl now living with her aunt Gemma, a researcher attempting to create a realistic doll controlled by artificial intelligence for kids. With a team of scientists, Gemma engineers her magnum opus, Model 3 Generative Android, M3GAN for short, only to discover that the AI may be far more intelligent than anticipated.

The narrative is well-crafted and engaging, with plenty of suspense and tension. The plot is fast-paced and unpredictable, and twists and turns keep the audience on the edge of their seats. M3GAN’s story bears many similarities to last year’s imaginative Barbarian and producer James Wan’s madcap horror Malignant (2021). M3GAN has creepily robotic movements controlled by puppeteers, as well as realistic prosthetics on a young actress. The impressive practical effects, especially during visceral attacks, add to the sense of horror without needing cheap tricks. Once in a while, the filmmakers use a well-timed jump-scare, which is forgivable because of the consistent tension built up by the ominous original soundtrack.

M3GAN and Cady. Screengrab from the ‘M3GAN’ trailer.

M3GAN features some frighteningly clever and thought-provoking ideas about how artificial intelligence can benefit parents, as well as concerning implications of how it could cause adverse effects on children. Through Gemma’s newfound parental role to Cady becoming replaced by M3GAN, the film explores the impacts of technology on our relationships realistically and compellingly. As Cady becomes more attached to M3GAN, her aunt’s research into AI advances at the expense of their relationship. It’s a great reminder of the importance of hands-on parenting. While struggling to grieve her parents’ untimely deaths, Cady develops an unhealthy attachment to M3GAN. Through this relationship, the film explores how technology can help and hinder our relationships. 

The movie has solid production values but a not-so-unique visual style. Standard shot reverse shot editing, perfunctory framing, and the occasional jump cut weigh down the fear factor. However, the clever use of atmospheric shadows and unnerving sound effects creates a sense of dread and unease. The acting is also excellent; the cast brings the characters to life believably. Child actress Violet McGraw brings a surprising amount of range to her role as Cady, especially in the latter half as the film explores attachment theory. Allison Williams, of Get Out fame, gives a deadpan performance with a constant expression of slight confusion; she’s the straight man to M3GAN’s sass and sarcastic quips.

Whether or not M3GAN will become a mainstay name in the horror genre remains to be seen, but she’ll surely slay again because a sequel is currently in development. M3GAN is an excellent sci-fi horror film with an engaging story filled with social commentary. The constantly escalating thrills, tense atmosphere make it exciting for all viewers. It is an exciting and intriguing movie that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats—whether laughing, terrified, or both.