“M3GAN” doll-ightfully dances into horror history


Photo courtesy of @MeetM3gan on Instagram

Cady (Violet McGraw) meets the AI doll named M3gan (Amie Donald and Jenna Davis) that was created by her aunt (Allison Williams) to help her get over the death of her parents. M3gan was designed to read Cady’s emotions and protect her against any and everything.

By Cecilia Bernstein, Photo Manager

Horror movies have started honing in on the creepy doll storyline in the past few years. This is the case with Gerard Johnstone’s “M3GAN”—advertising itself as Gen-Z’s “Child’s Play”— with a new-and-improved M3GAN doll playing the Chucky-like titular antagonist. While this updated villain achieves some HAL-level scares, the film itself misses on its opportunity to emphasize the horror factor.

“M3GAN,” released on Jan. 6, 2023, follows the story of eight-year-old Cady James (Violet McGraw) who, after the loss of her parents, moves in with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams). As a roboticist at a toy company, Gemma comes up with a creative idea to help Cady feel better about her loss: she develops a life-like AI doll named M3GAN (Amie Donald and Jenna Davis) who, after “pairing” with Cady, learns everything about Cady and vows to go to great lengths to protect her. 

As Cady and M3GAN grow closer, Cady becomes increasingly hesitant to open up to her aunt, instead turning to M3GAN for emotional support. Gemma soon realizes her code allows M3GAN to learn in real-time and starts to suspect that M3GAN is going to unspeakable lengths to protect Cady. In horror movie fashion, this situation quickly goes awry.

The movie attempts to take a comedic approach to the horror genre with fun music and choreographed dance murder scenes. Although these scenes achieve a playful feel, the tonal shift from comedy to horror is somewhat jarring. The film lacks a clear shift from its fun attitude to subsequent dark and murderous scenes.

While Allison Williams’s performance shines, many side characters’ below-average acting takes attention away from the scenes and make them feel tacky. The acting styles overlap and some actors seem confused about whether their performance should have a satirical or hard-hitting flair.

While the concept of an AI robot gaining world-dominating consciousness has been done countless times within the horror genre, “M3GAN” takes a different attitude than other films: M3GAN’s sole purpose is not to take over the world, but to simply complete her assigned task of protecting Cady. 

In the past few years, production companies have reduced their feature runtimes, and films that once would have run three hours may now wrap in one and a half to two hours. “M3GAN” has a relatively short runtime of 1:42, which is long enough to engage audiences but short enough to avoid unnecessary scenes and dragging. 

While the film was expected to do well, nobody expected how well it would do with audiences. The film has been a box office success, surpassing its $12 million budget several times over with a $45 million global opening. It has thus far earned a 95% rating by Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.7/10 by IMDB.

The movie was advertised in trailers with a signature dance move by M3GAN. While this dance move can only be seen once or twice throughout the movie, it has found some fame on social media apps. This singular dance move, rather than the film itself, may be the thing that leaves people talking about the movie for months to come.

The character of M3GAN is in the perfect position to join Chucky, as well as Annabelle and Billy, on the shortlist of classic horror movie dolls. Her witty personality, ability to appeal to all ages and memorable lines have garnered her internet popularity and will cement her in horror movie history.