top of page

M3GAN and Horror Comedy

*Photo: Universal Pictures


Out of all the most recent horror movies, M3GAN is probably the most bizarre. The movie has managed to garner both aggressively positive and negative reviews. Most notable of all, however, is the movie’s odd advertising campaign which went viral on TikTok prior to its release. Surprisingly, though, it remains remarkably enjoyable despite its contrivances and tropes. M3GAN is, essentially, a movie unafraid of its absurdity.

The premise is pretty simple- a toy company looking to create the next best thing utilizes the help of a robotics engineer to build a lifelike doll operated by artificial intelligence. Not an idea that hasn’t been done before, though granted not to this specificity. The movie revolves around Gemma, the engineer who designed M3GAN, and her complicated relationship with her orphaned niece, Cady. M3GAN is initially designed to protect Cady- the phrase ‘primary user’ is repeated continuously- and their relationship is the core conflict of the movie. As one can imagine, M3GAN turns out to be less of a toy than was initially planned, and the film follows the consequences of her creation. There have been many stories before which follow the concept of robots gone rogue and the unintended results of artificial intelligence, dating all the way back to Isaac Asimov’s rules of robotics. As long as the idea of AI has existed, we’ve been interested in what could go wrong. Therefore, it is not much of a surprise when M3GAN plays into this trope. This, unfortunately, is probably one of its biggest downfalls. We know M3GAN is going to be evil, we’ve seen this before. As a result the suspense isn’t really in if she’s going to turn bad, but rather at what point she’s going to do it. When it eventually does happen, it feels almost like a let down. M3GAN does do the typical evil things, advancing in scale as the movie progresses, but they are all explained as ways to pursue her primary directive, that being protecting Cady. When it’s time for complete destruction in evil-robot mode there’s not really any motivation for M3GAN to get there. Sacrificing Cady’s safety is never a line she’s crossed, but for her to become irredeemable she needs to do that. We expect it, and yet it doesn’t feel quite right.

Unlike its predecessors, M3GAN isn’t particularly interested in the ethical dilemmas of AI either. We never have the notion that the things M3GAN goes on to do are in any way correct. There’s inklings of that idea near the end of the movie as Gemma is confronted by what she’s created, but they are never fully explored. We don’t ever get the idea that creating M3GAN was cruel or unfair; the primary issue with her creation is the cost of human life. It is probably for the best that the film doesn’t try to pursue this concept, however. The movie’s greatest strength is its disregard for reality.

It would be wrong to expect anything out of M3GAN other than an entertaining and slightly pulpy horror movie. Its space in the public discourse has mainly been kept up by how little it takes itself seriously. There’s a two minute scene where the robot sings the song Titanium as a lullaby with complete sincerity. No child would ever look at this Chucky-esque creation with anything but fear, and yet every child who meets her is delighted by her. The opening of the movie is a parody commercial of cheap and annoying children’s toys similar to LOL surprise dolls or the various glittery baby dolls that can be used to make slime. The infamous ad campaign saw people dressing up like the doll and dancing uncannily to various songs, mimicking an actual moment in the movie. Putting too much stake in the movie’s interpersonal relationships or moral quandaries is doing it a discredit.

As horror becomes progressively more heady and esoteric, it’s nice to see a place being kept for other productions. Of course no film is an unalloyed neutral thing; anyone could read symbols and messaging into the plot of M3GAN. In fact, many already have, whether it be the satire on bad parenting or the takedowns on corporate culture, but that discussion takes a backseat to the horror and comedy elements.There's a place for serious and contemplative horror, but there’s also a place for movies like Child’s Play, The Evil Dead, and Cabin in the Woods. The latter also tackles more intellectual ideas along with its comedic elements. Horror comedies have proven to be incredibly effective ways of satirizing social issues or even their own medium.

Ultimately, M3GAN’s best qualities are what others might define as its worst; it is a fun movie that doesn’t try to be anything but that.

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page