The creepy robot at the heart of this tense, funny and ultra-violent Blumhouse horror flick is hard to pin down. Though she’s the spit of Ivanka Trump, her cynical pout owes more to alt-goth Jenna Ortega. She can also detect symptoms of neuro-divergence, enjoys discussing Jane Austen, sings at the drop of a hat and seems to fancy her female inventor, Gemma (Allison Williams).
On top of all that, the limbs of Model 3 Generative Android, aka M3GAN, resemble libidinous spaghetti (which you’ll aready know if you or anyone in your life has access to TikTok, where the movie is trending). I’m a big fan of demonic dolls Chucky and Annabelle. But, jeez, they look like stiff dum-dums next to this wickedly nimble polymath.
M3GAN is “paired” with a recently orphaned kid, Gemma’s young niece, Cady (Violet McGraw, who has an uncannily doll-like mien and a wonderful ability to convey existential despair, not to mention the gnawing need to be in sync with a device). The ambitious and politely clenched Gemma needs someone, or something, to look after Cady. She also needs to impress her idiot boss David (Ronny Chieng), who runs toy company Funki and is desperate to “kick Hasbro in the dick!” M3GAN, initially, appears to solve all of Gemma’s problems. But guess what? M3GAN is nobody’s puppet.
Nor is Williams. It’s surely not a coincidence that the 34 year-old (who co-produced the movie) was integral to Lena Dunham’s Girls and Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Williams has helped scriptwriter Akela Cooper craft a take on Frankenstein that’s breezily progressive. We learn that Gemma, who’s been keeping her best inventions in the “closet”, uses a Tinder app; most audience members will assume the dates she’s organising are with men. The longer the film goes on, the more Gemma (and her late sister) come into view and Williams handles every twist and turn with aplomb. To put it another way, M3GAN may have silly and predictable moments, but its status as a queer/feminist classic is assured.
Director Gerard Johnstone makes brilliant use of his $12m budget. M3GAN is brought to life via sophisticated but lo-fi technology (there’s very little CGI). Especially in the later scenes, as the fast-learning M3GAN gets ever more life-like, the whole thing leans heavily on young Amie Donald, who performs all the robot’s acrobatic moves and co-choreographed two of the most visually memorable sequences. What a find.
A sequel is in the works. Hooray! Let’s hope this budding franchise evolves in the right direction and maintains the edginess of its three female leads. Gemma, Cady and M3GAN don’t play nicely. They’re just what the horror scene needs.
102mins, cert 15