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by Eve Andrews

With January being known as the month that throws out movies from the low-quality backlog, new year releases can sometimes get a bad rep. However, M3GAN has been marketed as the next big horror flick, with the infamous dance scene going viral after the first trailer dropped. Seemingly inspired by a mixture of Chucky and Anabelle, the hype surrounding M3GAN has met various levels of expectation. Some were expecting something genuinely terrifying, while others expected something so bad that it would be entertaining in a fun and goofy way. Regardless, people were undeniably intrigued. 

So, where did M3GAN actually fall on the quality gauge? 

Well, as expected, M3GAN is definitely a goofy movie. But it’s also good. It’s a soft horror that gives just enough creepy vibes to be easily enjoyed, with only a few shock-value moments peppered sparingly throughout. It’s not overly gratuitous and doesn’t always take the direction you’d expect from the typical ‘AI gone rampant’ trope. 

Directed by Gerard Johnstone, the movie is surprisingly emotional in that the primary conflict springs from a young girl named Cady coping with sudden, profound loss. Living with her Aunt Gemma, an ingenious roboticist working for a toy company, Cady struggles to adjust. Gemma, feeling entirely out of her depth in her new parental role, creates M3GAN, a marvel of AI technology designed to replicate the role of a friend, teacher, and protector. Programmed to protect Cady from harm, M3GAN takes her role very, very seriously.

Again, despite technically being classed as a horror, M3GAN tackles surprisingly deep and fundamentally human themes. From grief and loss to professional stress and even the effects of poor parenting, there was a lot to unpack with the number of layers that were worked into the script. 

The most prominent overarching theme was exploring what it means to have a connection. Is a connection genuine even when it is not and cannot be reciprocated? With so many young people who are unable to have their social needs met now turning to technological escapism as a coping mechanism, this movie explored this challenging but relevant subject matter very effectively and will no doubt resonate in some capacity with numerous adults and youngsters alike. These layers of emotional nuance were a pleasant surprise as, from the trailer, I was expecting M3GAN to essentially be iRobot in a dress. The amount of effort this movie put into its characters is impressive. 

Speaking of characters, Allison Williams gave a multifaceted performance as Gemma, who, despite her genius in her professional field, was borderline insufferable in her emotionally detached approach to parenting her traumatised niece. However, I liked that the movie didn’t take the clichéd route of making Gemma cruel and disinterested to garner further sympathy for Cady. Despite not being good at the whole parenting thing and essentially using her niece for professional gain, it was clear that she was trying and that she genuinely thought that her actions were for the best. Gemma was a lousy parent but not maliciously so – she was simply out of her depth, and this inner conflict shone through beautifully in Williams’ performance. 

Furthermore, Williams’ character played wonderfully against the more innocent energy of Violet McGraw in her role as little Cady. Cady presented a childhood parallel to Gemma, filled with the curiosity and wonder that had been pressed out of Gemma by her high-pressure work life. This made their connection all the more intriguing, with each having things they could learn from the other. With the emotional layers and tragic backstory, the role of Cady would be a taxing role for anyone, let alone a child. But Violet McGraw did a fantastic job of portraying the trauma and isolation felt by Cady.

While I enjoyed the script, acting and cinematography of M3GAN, I couldn’t help but feel that more could have been done with the concept. While I enjoyed that it focuses more on character than gratuitous shock, some things could have been done to amp up the tension and directions that could have been taken to make it more memorable. While it took a few unexpected turns at some points, the overall outcome was ultimately predictable, leaving me wanting more in a way that wasn’t necessarily good. Of course, I won’t discuss this in any more detail here in the interest of keeping this review spoiler free, but maybe when you watch it, you’ll see what I’m getting at.

That said, I do recommend giving M3GAN a watch! It’s definitely not something I’ll be losing sleep over in terms of its fear factor, but the concept is interesting, the script is good, the cast carries it well, and it is ultimately very entertaining. It tackles some very interesting and relevant subject matters, and the creepy vibes are extremely enjoyable! It’s almost nice to have a horror that doesn’t overcompensate on shock value and instead lets the inherently unsettling subject matter speak for itself. It’s a soft horror, and I welcome it.

What do you think of M3GAN? Does it pique your interest, or are you wondering what all the fuss is about? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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