When I was a child I had a toy bear that when you pulled the string on its back said “I will protect you and keep you safe from harm”. Looking back the tone and timbre of his voice would not be out of place in any of these mechanical horror films of today.
He didn’t have a name, maybe Brown Bear and he didn’t walk or talk but in 2023 we now have M3gan. She can walk, talk and actually protect………by any means.
The timing of this film couldn’t be more apt coming in the shadow of OpenAI’s bursting forth onto the mainstream stage at the end of 2022 into 2023.
It’s a tale as old as tech or as the ChatGPT version of Public Enemy might call it Fear of a Tech Planet. New technology, change, fear, embracing and relying on new technologies and worst case scenarios are rife for dramatisation and what better way to update the Chucky/Annabelle crossed with Ex Machina than for Blumhouse to bring us M3gan (Model 3 Generative Android), the latest in toy manufacturing.
When Gemma’s (Allison Williams) sister and brother in law are killed in a freak traffic accident she is left as guardian to their only child, Cady (Violet McGraw) . Gemma works at Funki, a toy company, and is developing a lifesize doll that has artificial intelligence and is designed to look after the child it is assigned to/paired with and provides companionship to said child. M3gan is paired with Cady in its beta state as it is still being worked on and in development, one of its remits is to protect Cady and being equipped to self-improve and adapt to new situations, M3gan starts to act independently. Anything or anyone who appears to be a threat to Cady, M3Gan deals with, the neighbours dog for starters.
There is an uncanny valley effect here, the facial design of M3gan seems to be a combination of CGI and makeup and as such looks very creepy, unsettling and unreal. The actress playing M3gan (Amie Donald) does a great physical job as does the voice artist (Jenna Davis).
One of the things that make great horror films is the amount of investment in the telling the story as truthfully as possible that the actors can and Allison Williams and Violet McGraw commit fully. Their relationship feels grounded in reality as they face the challenges of their situation.
This is a fun ride that is not as high brow as Alex Garland’s brilliant Ex Machina nor as B movie as Tom Holland’s (not Spidey) Child’s Play so it sits somewhere in the entertainment middle and is a welcome addition to the ‘horror’ genre. New Zealander Gerard Johnstone directs this film to box office success and he is currently in talks to direct the sequel M3gan 2.0. If you wanna know how successful the film has been check out the M3gan sketch from Saturday Night Live starring Aubrey Plaza and the viral TikTok dances. M3gan has arrived.
Blumhouse released one of my favourite horrors last year with The Black Phone and the first ‘horror film’ I have seen in 2023 is also one of theirs, may they all be as fun as this one.
See it….if you dare.
“I’ll protect you and keep you safe from harm.”