A great mix of violence and comedy and one of the best killer doll movies since Child’s Play; feels like the birth of a new horror icon.

M3GAN stands for “Model 3 Generative Android” – it’s going to be the most advanced children’s toy ever created. In this horror thriller produced by horror veterans James Wan and Jason Blum, the story focuses on an orphaned girl who becomes emotionally attached to a prototype robotic doll that gradually becomes self aware and murderously violent towards anybody who harms her assigned human. As a fan of the Child’s Play franchise I had high hopes for this film and I’m glad to say that M3GAN delivered the goods and she could take on Chucky any day. This film is awesome.

After a tragic car accident, a young girl named Cady (Violet McGraw) becomes an orphan. She moves in with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), a workaholic roboticist for a toy company. Lacking the parenting skills needed to take care of Cady, Gemma fast-tracks the development of her latest project, M3GAN (Amie Donald & voiced by Jenna Davis), a robotic doll with advanced artificial intelligence that’s able to help take care of Cady. The real girl quickly bonds with the artificial one and the project that was originally canned by Gemma’s boss David (Ronny Chieng) quickly appears to be a glorious success that will advance Gemma’s career and make the toy company a lot of money.

As you’d expect with a rushed artificial intelligence put into a robotic body capable of becoming self-aware, things start to go horribly when M3GAN’s interpretation of looking after her human reaches murderous levels. She will do anything to protect Cady from physical and emotional harm and go to extreme lengths to prevent the two from being separated. By the time Gemma realizes something might be wrong with her creation, M3GAN has evolved to become something far more than originally intended. With a worldwide reveal and launch of the new toy approaching and Cady’s unhealthy attachment to the doll, Gemma is going to have to become the human Cady needs in order to prevent further tragedy.

Considering the genre, the acting is surprisingly good and quite comparable to movies that fall into the drama category. Violet McGraw gives an impressive performance playing the orphan Cady who, without having a guardian who can commit to properly looking after her, becomes emotionally attached to a synthetic friend. McGraw flawlessly pulls at your heartstrings in scenes where Cady bears her heart as she struggles to deal with the loss of her parents. But she’s also able to grate on your nerves portraying a bratty, misbehaving child who is rebellious and pushes boundaries. McGraw perfectly channels all the highs and lows that you expect from a child at that age dealing with grief and loss.

Allison Williams also gives a solid performance as a single, workaholic who’s life is upended with the death of her sister and the responsibility of becoming her niece’s guardian. Not equipped with the parenting skills needed to look after her niece, Gemma turns to what she’s good at in order to help with her current situation – making robots. Williams convincingly portrays the frustration, exhaustion and difficulties you’d expect of an adult who suddenly finds themself responsible for a young girl while still trying to keep their job and focus on their personal goals.

The stand out performance however goes to Amie Donald &  Jenna Davis whose combined talents brings to life the star of the film, M3GAN. Donald brilliantly conveys the physical transformation over time from the obvious early robotic movements to the fluid moving, deadly killer M3GAN becomes. When M3GAN is first created, her body movements are awkward but improve over time as she learns from her human how to move and dance. It’s a great physical performance – especially the dancing.

To complete the character of M3GAN, Jenna Davis lends her talent for the sweet, innocent yet deadly voice for the murderous doll. It’s the innocence and sweetness that makes M3GAN all the more terrifying and eerie once she starts to become self aware. Disturbing dialogue that semi veils her violent intentions are amplified by Davis’ angelic singing voice. The combined talent of Donald and Davis brings to life a highly memorable character that in my opinion rivals that of Brad Dourif’s infamous Chucky from the Child’s Play franchise.

Director Gerard Johnstone (The New Legends of Monkey, Housebound) has made a fantastic horror thriller that takes the horror elements you expect from other “possessed doll” movies and combines it with serious modern themes surrounding the reliance of technology as well as the importance of human connection. While this could have been a routine killer doll movie, Johnstone has – helped by a great script from Akela Cooper (Malignant) – combined the horror with strong family drama while also throwing in some surprising comedy.

Johnstone understands the importance of human connection because the real horror isn’t really the idea of a robot doll going on a killing rampage, but the loss of humanity as we become more connected to and reliant on technology instead of other people. These themes make M3GAN a far superior storytelling experience when compared to other murderous doll movies. But don’t worry, these ideas are not preached at us. It’s all masterfully embedded in a fantastic script and delivered with plenty of killing and tense moments.

With a well thought out script, a great mix of violence and comedy, and real commitment to the premise, M3GAN is a fantastically enjoyable start to the new year. It’s one of the best killer doll movies (of which there are many) since the Child’s Play franchise and this feels like the birth of a new horror icon. With a PG-13 rating it never goes over the top with its violence so even the more squeamish viewers should be able to enjoy it without having to turn their eyes from the screen –  though I hear there’s an R-rated cut so I hope that gets released for horror buffs like me who like their deadly dolls a bit more gruesome. Highly recommended.

  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Release Date: January 6, 2023
  • Distributor: Universal Pictures

Originally published on January 16, 2023 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/m3gan-2023/