There’s certain New Year’s traditions that we all seem to accept as standard. For most of us, this involves drinking copious amounts of liquor that may or may not taste vaguely like Christmas, partying (possibly until you puke), dancing around with at least part of your butt hanging out, fighting with your spouse, noisemakers, fireworks, people complaining about fireworks, illegal drugs, etc. But a more memorable New Year’s tradition has to be the one that sees two very interesting things happening simultaneously: Crap tier horror movie studios release a real stinker of a movie (I mean it’s January. Everyone knows a January release is a big yikes.), and then the horror film cricket blue check mark twitter taste makers clad in promotional merchandise with their social media feeds filled with pictures of exclusive premieres for said movie come running to it’s defense (Isn’t it kinda funny how all the people really flagellating themselves over this movie all also seem to have promotional M3GAN t-shirts? Haha, weird right?), using their bodies as a kind of shield wall around said crappy January release and inevitably hail it as either “the scariest movie of all time” or oddly, “the movie that’s going to save cinemas”, or “the movie that’s going to rival XYZ legacy IP”.
Sound familiar? These are all things said about M3GAN. Well, maybe not the scariest movie of all time, but I’ve seen it compared to Chucky, people saying M3GAN would rival Chucky (big if true). And here’s the thing. M3GAN is fine. It’s very middle of the road, it’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s not really worth any of the hype. It’s a forgettable January horror movie that has an attached TikTok meme dance, and now remember kids – just because you’ve got a few memes, does not a good film make – just look at Morbius for example. The memes for Morbius were fire as hell, and the film itself left a lot to be desired.
Oh also – this review will contain some spoilers for M3GAN (but I mean really, holy fuck, it’s a movie about an evil robot, one could expect that an evil robot would.. be evil, but hey here we are).
So, let’s talk M3GAN. M3GAN is directed by Gerard Johnstone, based on a screenplay by Akela Cooper with a story by James Wan (fuck if a film has creepy dollies, boy is he all over it huh? I mean, I also love dollies, so maybe me and James can finally be besties for forever). And it’s produced by the much malligned Bumhouse.. sorry… BLUMhouse, I keep mixing those two up somehow. The run time clocks in at 1 hour 40 minutes, which seemed like a perfect length, because as I’ve written about at 23 Things That Can Fuck Off in 2023, holy fuck modern movies do be long sometimes.
Anywho, M3GAN stars Allison Williams (Get Out, Girls) as Gemma, a roboticist working at a toy company, busy cranking out the latest toys for consumerist consumption. Her niece Cady (played by Violet McGraw) finds herself an orphan after an untimely run in with a snowplow that blew her dumbass parents off the side of a mountain and into death’s sweet embrace. Seriously tho, any Canadian watching the opening of M3GAN, I challenge you not to yell about driving like a complete asshole in inclement snowy weather. So, for whatever reason, Gemma is all, “hey this is my kid now” with no audience buy-in as to why that’s important. A throwaway scene demonstrating the closeness of Gemma and her sister would have been nice but hey it’s January.. fuck all that shit, right?
Okay, so Gemma who’s a busy business woman who only likes business, finds herself playing mommy in the most wooden portrayal of motherhood I’ve seen in a while, but hey family do be like that sometimes. In an effort to please her overbearing boss at work and also find a babysitter for the extremely traumatized Cady, Gemma does what any other crunchy mommy facebook group member would do and ignores a medical professional’s sage advice and decides to build a horrifying robot named M3GAN that looks something like an anime balljointed doll thing aka move the fuck over Annabelle.
Like all evil robots capable of learning and shoddily thrown together by a lackadaisical robotics engineer, M3GAN turns evil in about four seconds and starts her path of destruction including implied animal cruelty and a few instances of murder. Keep in mind, M3GAN is a PG film and has been hailed as “family horror”(?) so everything held within the film tends to rely on implied violence rather than actual violence. The violence that is portrayed is silly (ripping off an ear) rather than serious.
As M3GAN ignores her programming and becomes increasingly self aware, Gemma feels herself pushed away from Cady as a kind of mother.
Gemma’s boss, meanwhile, wants to debut M3GAN to the world asap and start raking in the cash, and like all rushed consumer products, the launch for M3GAN is.. wait for it.. CUT SHORT.. heyoooooo.
Gemma has to face down the evil robot M3GAN who ends up defeated with the power of love and obviously since there’s going to be a sequel M3GAN transports her consciousness into the internet a la Lawnmower Man to haunt facebook or something I don’t know. Got catfished on Tinder? Blame M3GAN. Ipod you bought on Facebook Marketplace didn’t work? M3GAN. You dragged your ass out of the house on a blustery Thursday night to freeze your off? M3GAN.
Anyways, M3GAN is fine. Hailed a horror comedy, I found, at least personally, and I recognize that I don’t think I’m the target audience for M3GAN, that the laughs were mostly in short supply. To be fair, I also found the horror to be in short supply, but I recognize as well that this is a PG release and obviously isn’t going to be some grimdark meditation on the nature of robotics and reality a la “Ex Machina”. I liked the design of the M3GAN doll, but again I am biased on this one as I’m a dollmaker and collector and in my personal life, you can often find me dressed, unironically in clothing that wouldn’t be out of place in M3GAN’s wardrobe. I’m also around 5ft tall, so really maybe the evil doll is on the inside of every short woman just waiting to be released. What bugged me a bit about M3GAN is that even with a reduced runtime of 1 hour 40 minutes, it still felt miles too long. When the TikTok meme dance was over, and the simplified plot of baby’s first evil robot is laid bare, there isn’t really much to the film itself. There’s no buy in or give-a-shit from or towards any of the characters in the film. I never bought that Gemma felt any sort of way towards Cady. I never bought Cady as a traumatized youth (why do all horror films have to be about phones or trauma, seriously, who decided this? y’all know the DSM wasn’t made as a monster manual for Hollywood yeah?). The film definitely was more of a science fiction film (including it’s corny Lawnmower Man ending) than a horror and the issue with that is that unlike most science fiction/speculative fiction etc, it didn’t bother to ask any questions typically found in films of the same variety. Which again, this is a PG film likely geared at a younger audience, so there’s only so much philosophical or political meandering one can reasonably expect, however, here, there was no questions, only a false platitude of like.. dolls = creepy, robots = evil, and we love our phones too much. At the end of the day these are statements that have been used and abused all through the horror genre and are nothing new – Hell, films like “Phone” and “Pulse” and “One Missed Call” have been wondering about the nature of phones and our reliance on them for darn near 20 years now.
As a dollmaker, I appreciated the M3GAN design, and as a fan of a gimmick, I appreciated the marketing for M3GAN (despite the fact that it hit the same notes as SMILE, but hey, sometimes when one has a good idea you gotta make hay while the sun’s out right?). And really overall, I didn’t hate M3GAN, but that’s not to say I liked it either, and it’s certainly not to say that I think it’s gonna “save cinemas”. It’s an evil robot movie released in January. It’s fine, but don’t expect to have your pants blown off.
Drunk in a Graveyard rating – 3/6
M3GAN is in theatres January 6th.
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