The ‘Killer Doll’ subgenre never seems to run out of batteries, from the endless Chucky reboots to the new toys on the block like Annabelle. Audiences must love murderous playthings.
This seems to be the case with M3GAN, which has proved to be such a smash that a sequel’s being promptly manufactured. The film attempts to modernise the trope by making its titular menace an android imbued with a sophisticated AI.
Her creator is Gemma (Get Out’s Alison Williams), a roboticist who decides to gift the prototype to her orphaned niece Cady ( Violet McGraw). Once M3GAN is ‘paired’ with Cady, she resolves to protect her human at all costs, no matter how violent.
The AI-centric update is not as radical a makeover as one might think: the 2019 Child’s Play remake did practically the same thing. While it lacks actual novelty, it makes up for it with a mischievous sense of fun. It is crafted with an obvious affection for B-Movie slashers and is co-written by Saw and Conjuring maestro James Wan, a man with a clear affinity for creepy puppets.
M3GAN herself is cleverly designed. With her Japanese-schoolgirl attire and dance moves, she’s like a nightmare version of a tween TikToker. Her face is smack-bang in the centre of the Uncanny Valley…eerily lifelike yet uncomfortably lifeless.
However, the movie she’s in is nowhere near as scary as it should be. There are a couple of lazy jump frights, but director Gerard Johnstone fails to give it much suspense. The tongue-in-cheek humour works well, though, making you wish the film was an out-and-out horror-comedy. Unfortunately, it’s not funny enough to be a satire, or scary enough to be a horror.
Unlike M3GAN, her human co-stars are far from memorable. Alison Williams is lumped with a bland protagonist role, while McGraw’s Cady is far too annoying to root for.
There is a little social commentary about the dangers of raising kids with devices but you won’t find any Black Mirror-style urgency here. Instead, it safely settles for run-of-mill stalking and slashing. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing provocative about it either.
Fun but forgettable, M3GAN is exactly what you’d expect it to be: Chucky with a Microchip.
You can check out this movie at the Eden Cinemas.