Quick Synopsis: Remember the 2019 Child’s Play? It’s that. Only with a younger child, less snark, and more orphans.
I’ll get the obvious out of the way, you don’t need to have seen M1gan, or M2gan for this film to make sense, mainly because those films don’t exist on account of M1gan sounding less like a horror film, and more like a documentary about the motorway connecting London and Leeds. I would not have made them the first movies I see in 2023, that would be weird.
This was actually the first film I saw in cinemas this year, and I don’t regret that choice at all. It’s a fun watch. It’s not likely to end up among the best films seen this year, but it is likely to be among the ones I had the most fun watching. This is my type of horror film; funny, violent, and well-made. That’s not to say it’s disposable, I think the idea of a horror film coasting by just on the kills are long-gone, they need to justify themselves to still work. This does that, it’s made with a lot of care and really feels like a passion project.
Some people may find it a bit too reminiscent of the last Child’s Play film, but I actually enjoyed that so it’s not exactly a downside, after all, even if you eat chocolate ice cream on a Monday, you’re not going to say no to chocolate ice cream on a Tuesday. Sometimes it’s okay to do the expected. There’s not much about this that’s necessarily groundbreaking or new, it’s not reinventing the wheel. It knows you know what’s going to happen, but it’s done so skillfully that that actually works in the movie’s favour. A good example of this is a scene where a technician is attempting to fix M3gan. Everybody in the audience knows that she’s going to reboot and attack him. But the key is when is it going to happen? It’s like watching someone play Jenga, every block removed causing a sigh of relief when the tower doesn’t fall, and the longer it doesn’t fall the tenser it gets as you know it’s building to the inevitable conclusion. Only, Jenga doesn’t cause as much blood usually (I’m aware there are exceptions).
So that’s the film itself, now onto the pieces that make it up. This is only the second feature directed by Gerard Johnstone, and that’s baffling. It feels like the work of an experienced hand, the way he balances horror and humour is a good sign for his future prospects. If he sticks with M3gan, he could helm a killer franchise, which the genre surely needs as there doesn’t seem to have been many in the last few years.
Oh, to answer the question; Get Out. That’s where you know lead actress Allison Williams from. Or possibly HBO’s Girls. I was trying to figure out where I knew her from the whole time. She’s well-cast in this, her slightly detached closeness makes sense. There are a few scenes where you feel she could do more, but there’s never a scene where it feels like she needs to. Violet McGraw does a pretty damn good job as Cady (the young child that befriends M3gan). I wouldn’t be surprised if she grows into a great talent over the next few decades. She has a really difficult role in this actually, a child who has lost her parents and is searching for emotional reassurance without being able to say that out loud because she’s too young to fully understand that’s what she needs. The worry when she approaches the android is understandable, as is the joy when they start emotionally connecting.
Now, M3gan herself. Usually, a character like that is either CGI or puppetry/robotics. Here she’s played by Amie Donald, a child actress from New Zealand. Her physical commitment to the role is impressive, moving in a way that even the silhouette provides an uncanny valley experience. If she moved naturally the character would be laughable, it’s the strange stiffness that reminds you that the character isn’t human, and then she rips a kid’s ear off easily and that confirms it.
That scene is very disturbing by the way, and if it wasn’t for the strange dance M3gan does that’s gone viral, I feel the child murder would be the iconic scene. It’s a good murder, and the motives for it make sense. Not only was the child threatening Cady, but he also pretty much tried to rape M3gan. I mean, he removes some of her clothing, strikes her in the face, and straddles her. He had no idea she was a sentient robot, he just thought he was fucking a toy. That’s still not great, is it?
Sadly, like all movies of this ilk, there is the inevitable sequel hook. It’s not as egregious as they usually are though, so that’s a plus. There is a self-contained story here, so any sequels will be nice addendums, rather than necessities. Plus, I wouldn’t actually mind seeing a sequel, if it was done right. If it’s just another “oh no, killer toy robot” then I wouldn’t be too excited. But a sequel that examined the effect these murders had on the survivors, the town, and the toy company itself trying to handle a PR nightmare that can’t be ignored? I’m down for that.