M3GAN Synopsis: Designed by brilliant roboticist Gemma, M3GAN is a life-like android that can listen, watch and learn as it plays the role of friend, teacher, playmate, and protector. When Gemma (Allison Williams) becomes the unexpected caretaker of her 8-year-old niece (Violet McGraw), she decides to give the girl an M3GAN prototype - a decision that leads to unimaginable consequences.
Roboticist Gemma is a master at her technical craft, but the workaholic boasts little understanding outside her day-to-day job responsibilities as a toy creator. When Gemma becomes the guardian of her deceased sister's child Cady, she introduces her long-developing passion project, M3GAN, to help take on a parental role. The life-like doll becomes a devoted friend to Cady, but the uncontrollable technology eventually unveils a sinister side in M3GAN.
In the same vein as the Child's Play series, M3GAN turns the family-friendly image of zeitgeist toys on their head in a devilish horror-comedy. The timeless approach from director Gerard Johnstone and screenwriter Akela Cooper scores dazzling results with M3GAN - a razor-sharp satire shrouded in unnerving horrors and a ferocious comedic bite.
There's a reason M3GAN cultivated social media phenomenon status before even hitting theaters. The eerie character draws a transfixing presence on screen, coming to life as a distorted representation of a prim and proper adolescent girl. While serving as a loyal companion to Cady, M3GAN gradually sheds her pleasant image as she unveils a sardonic darkness in her binary worldview. Actress Amie Donald and voice-over performer Jenna Davis form a cohesive team in portraying the character's vicious edge - fearlessly sinking their teeth into the material's finite horror-comedy bend. The expressive performances pair well with Cooper's acidic dialogue exchanges, helping to form a fearsome horror foe who can't help but compel viewers.
Cooper displays vivacious bite throughout her screenplay. M3GAN deftly defines itself through modern society's growing dependence on smart devices, framing its observations specifically within technology's expansive role as a consuming fixture for children. As M3GAN takes on emotional caregiver responsibilities, Cooper cleverly paints a pointed satire on the thoughtless trust we impart in technology despite its artificial condition and undeniable ties to corporate interests. Her articulate insights and spirited jabs at our tech-reliant society extenuate the film's strengths as a horror film defined by timely sentiments.
The endearing campiness of M3GAN is thankfully balanced by its well-defined characterization. Despite being family members, Gemma and Cady share a relationship marred by mutual detachment. Cooper never oversells their makeshift family dynamic through sentimental flourishes, with the inclusion of M3GAN ultimately creating an alienating wedge between the already-fractured pair. Stars Allison Williams and Violet McGraw deliver textured performances as they explore the characters' complex relationship onscreen. Even if the film eventually settles for straightforward conclusions, both performers form a necessary dramatic core that grounds the chaos at hand.
Director Gerard Johnstone's skilled touch behind the camera also serves as a crucial driving force. He adeptly balances a tone divided between moments of sinister horror and comedic mayhem, walking a rigid tonal high-wire act while never missing a beat in the process. The only letdown in M3GAN comes from the film's embrace of a somewhat sanitized PG-13 rating, which mitigates some of the believable menace behind M3GAN's violent murder streak. Still, I give Johnstone credit for making the most out of the stylistic restrictions. He often conveys a palpable sense of unease as the android character quietly lurks amidst the shadows.
M3GAN delivers a roaring crowdpleaser in the horror-comedy space. The film extracts a killer good time from its vibrant approach to a time-honored concept.
M3GAN is now playing in theaters.