If you look at the episodes of Shudder’s documentary series “Behind the Monsters” – each of which was devoted to its own Horror Icon – one thing became painfully clear right up front: Where the hell are our female horror icons? I don’t mean the survivors – we all know our Final Girls, they are legion. I mean the villains. Where is our Jasine Voorhees? Our Frederica Krueger? Why does nothing happen if I say “Candygal” five times in the mirror???
Well the past couple of years have finally begun to right that gendered wrong, bringing us the return of Isabella Fuhrman’s Esther in her Orphan franchise (hopefully TBC, as the second film was a total hoot) as well as Mia Goth’s ax-welding and Oscar-worthy turn in Pearl (in both the titular prequel as well as X). Finally some iconic Halloween costumes for the Lizzie Borden lovers among us! And now this weekend makes for three with M3GAN, director Gerard Johnstone’s riotously entertaining new slasher, which merges Chucky with Mean Girls to gift us with an insta-icon for the horror ages.
M3GAN stands for “Model 3 Generative Android”… and it’s the latest invention from millennial tech-wiz Gemma (Allison Williams, who between this and Get Out and The Perfection — not to mention let’s be real several horrifying scenes in Girls — is making a name for herself as a horror icon). Gemma has been coasting on outdated Furby-adjacent playthings for a bit, and wants to beat the rival toy companies to the next big thing with her (terrifyingly) lifelike android version of My Buddy 2.0. The price-point (around ten thousand smackaroos) is a bit of a question mark obviously, but her niece Cady (Violet McGraw) hands her her sales-line on a silver platter when she takes one look at Gemma’s work and says it’s the only toy a kid would ever need. Ka-ching, baby.
Also insert your own “Dun dun dun!” shrieking strings there too. Cady, a recent orphan, has just been dropped into the lap of the workaholic Gemma, and M3GAN gets turned on just in time for the both of them, filling Cady’s chasm of grief and loneliness and Gemma’s ambivalence towards parenting – see, M3GAN can do it all. She’ll tuck you in, she’ll sing you a sweet song, she’ll tell you to flush the toilet, she’ll drop down onto all fours and hunt bullies through the forest like a freaking wolverine terminator maniac in her posh little winter coat. Everything a lonely little girl could ever want or need!
See, because of some slight rush in the development process, Gemma might’ve cut some corners on those pesky little “Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics” – you know, the ones that tell the A.I. not to push people into traffic? M3GAN’s biggest imperative is just to protect Cady at all costs, and natch like with any helicopter parent her programming on that front quickly spirals as the bond between her and her traumatized baby-girl becomes a wee bit too tight. Basically imagine Paris Hilton crossed with those Dads you see tackling umpires at Little League games and you’ve got the gist on M3GAN. Nobody’s gonna put Cady in the corner… or else!
The uncanny valley that M3GAN saunters, bends and snaps through is one we’re all becoming more and more familiar with as our technology’s sentience insinuates itself in countless ways – the targeted ads for sink-drains that suddenly spring up a day after we had a conversation about just that; the little voices that sweetly converse with us from our refrigerators and remote controls. The fairly abysmal 2019 Chucky reboot (the one with Aubrey Plaza) attempted to plug itself into this unsettling space, but with mostly dour results – where that one failed M3GAN dances her way unto the heavens, the ages, a truly hilarious freak-out that genuinely taps into these anxieties while also keeping its eyes on the sweet sweet camp prize at every turn.
Point being this movie is a blast, escalating by leaps and bounds and jank-ass pirouettes as it confidently asserts its control and gets to slashing and dashing all its rivals. 2023 might be merek new but it’s already birthed a legend. Bow down to your cyborg glamour queen y’all – all hail Miss M3GAN. Or else!!!