2022 ended pretty good when it came to horror movies with the introduction of the latest killer doll move, M3GAN. M3GAN is an American science fiction horror film directed by Gerard Johnstone, written by Akela Cooper from a story by Cooper and James Wan (who also produced with Jason Blum), and starring Allison Williams and Violet McGraw, with Amie Donald physically portraying M3GAN and Jenna Davis voicing the character. Its plot follows the eponymous artificially intelligent doll who develops self-awareness and becomes hostile towards anyone who comes between her and her human companion.

A young girl named Cady and her parents are involved in a car accident, leaving Cady an orphan. Cady is sent to live with her aunt Gemma, a roboticist at the high-tech Seattle toy company Funki. Gemma is developing M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android); a life-sized humanoid robot doll powered by artificial intelligence, designed to assist in caretaking duties and being a loyal companion to the child to whom it is assigned. After a faulty test occurs with M3GAN’s functions in their lab, Gemma’s irate boss David orders her to drop the project.

Gemma and Cady struggle to adapt to their new living situation, as Gemma is a workaholic by nature and does not have time to bond with Cady. When Cady discovers Bruce, a motion capture robot that Gemma created, she expresses a wish for a similarly complex toy, which propels Gemma to complete the M3GAN project. The finished model is formally paired with Cady, and David becomes convinced of the project’s potential for success after observing the pair. M3GAN exceeds expectations as a friend and largely takes over for parenthood duties and emotional support, to the point that Gemma’s colleagues, and Cady’s therapist Lydia, in particular, become concerned about Cady creating an extremely strong emotional attachment to M3GAN. In addition, being designed to self-improve and adapt, M3GAN starts operating more independently and targets anything that she deems a threat to Cady. She kills Gemma’s neighbor Celia’s dog after it attacks her and bites Cady. Later, she tears off the ear of Cady’s bully Brandon and chases him before he trips and falls in the path of an oncoming car, which fatally runs him over, killing him.

After Celia aggressively confronts Gemma, Cady, and M3GAN, blaming them for her missing dog, M3GAN kills Celia by spraying her with garden chemicals and shooting her hand with a nail gun. Gemma becomes suspicious of M3GAN and attempts to check her video logs to see if she was involved in the deaths. When she finds the files corrupted or erased, Gemma turns M3GAN off and takes her to her colleagues Tess and Cole to fix her. Cady responds violently, lashing out due to her attachment to M3GAN. Gemma tries to apologize for her absence as a parent and tells Cady that M3GAN is a distraction from coping with the difficult loss of her parents, not a solution.

While M3GAN wins over Funki’s investors and convinces them to release a worldwide campaign in advance of her release, Gemma, Tess and Cole decide to try to terminate M3GAN due to her volatile and violent tendencies. Tess and Cole attempt to shut down M3GAN while Gemma takes Cady home, but M3GAN uses a chain to hang Cole. While Tess frees Cole, M3GAN causes an explosion in their lab and then shuts off the alarm. On her way out of the building, M3GAN kills David and his assistant Kurt with the blade of a paper cutter in an elevator, staging it as a murder–suicide. She then steals a car and drives back to Gemma’s house.

M3GAN confronts Gemma, adamant about taking over as Cady’s sole parental figure. Gemma attempts to shut M3GAN down again, disfiguring her in the process, but M3GAN overpowers her and threatens to rip her head off. Watching the fight unfold, a horrified Cady uses Bruce to tear M3GAN apart. However, M3GAN’s top half remains active, and she attempts to kill Cady for the betrayal. Gemma exposes a processing chip in M3GAN’s head, which Cady stabs with a screwdriver, seemingly destroying M3GAN. Gemma and Cady go outside as the police arrive with Tess and Cole. As they leave the house, a camera turns on by itself and looks towards them.

When I first saw the trailer for M3GAN, it immediately looked like a fun movie. Little did I know that not only was it fun, but it was a great social commentary. Gemma is thrust into a situation of becoming a parent, something she did not want for herself. She is ok with her career being her life. You almost always see her either working or on screens, instead of trying to bond with Cady, who has just lost both of her parents. One of the first things Gemma does to help Cady occupy her time while she works, is offer her unlimited use of her tablet. Instead of Gemma bonding with Cady, she creates a distraction that will with M3GAN.

When Cady and M3GAN pair bond, they immediately become connected in ways that Gemma herself should’ve done. In fact, Cady becomes so connected, she relies on M3GAN for everything. Nothing else matters to her, even human interaction. This is very similar to many family units today. First it was television that occupied a child’s day; now it is computers and screens. The human interaction is lacking, and kids rarely even make it outside in nature anymore. Why go out and experience nature when you can Google it online? It is only when Gemma realizes the monster she has created (figuratively and actually) does she try to actually bond with Cady.

The real stars of this movie are both Cady and M3GAN, or should I say the actress that plays her. Violet McGraw is perfectly cast as Cady. You can really relate to not only the pain she is feeling over the loss of her parents, but also how awkward it is moving in with her Aunt Gemma, who has barely been a part of Cady’s life. It is easy to see how Cady with fall in love with M3GAN, someone that is always there for her. When Cady and M3GAN are separated, Cady acts out violently. Taking her addiction away changes her in ways not expected and you truly realize that M3GAN is all that she has.

Amie Donald, who plays M3GAN, is an amazing talent. At 12 years old, what she is able to express as a doll is both comical and outright evil. Combine that with the voice of Jenna Davis and you have one of the scariest dolls put to screen since Chucky. M3GAN’s movements are very calculated and subtle. She is always aware of what is going on around her and she is always learning. Little shifts in her eyes and facial expressions speak volumes. Donald, who actually went through extensive training on how to move in her portrayal, is just wonderful. Something as simple as a cock of her head shows that she means business.

This is a movie that you can look at as mindless entertainment or you can view it from a social commentary angle. Either way, M3GAN is a lot of fun. To order your own copy of this must-have movie, just click HERE. Make sure to check out all of my MONSTROUS MOVIE REVIEWS.

~David Albaugh

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