The concepts of technology gone awry and killer dolls (from “The Twilight Zone’s” Talking Tina to Chucky) are hardly original, but “M3GAN” finds a clever way to add to the genre, delivering a fresh and humorous horror story that is all the more enjoyable for being set in the near future (roughly 10 minutes). Concerned parents may feel like “There but for the grace of Hasbro go I” when they hear about the possibility of their children having a deadly android companion.
Allison Williams plays the role of a well-meaning mad scientist whose best-laid ideas go horribly awry in this picture produced by horror powerhouse Blumhouse and “The Conjuring” director James Wan (who shares narrative credit with screenwriter Akela Cooper).
Williams’ Gemma adds to her horror cred from “Get Out” as she takes in her orphaned niece Cady (Violet McGraw), nine, after the tragic death of her parents in a car accident. Gemma is devoted to her career as a roboticist for a toy firm, and she has come up with a hilarious invention called Purrpetual Petz, the ideal high-tech pet for a child who has experienced trauma after having to bury a furry friend.
However, Gemma has her eyes set on a more lofty goal: a humanoid android that forms emotional attachments and develops social skills with its young owner. When she doesn’t know what else to do with Cady, she hands her the prototype for the Model 3 Generative Android, or M3GAN for short, hoping to appease the girl while also impressing her anxious boss, Ronny Chieng.
M3GAN is incredible, but there are some issues that should cause greater concern than they now do. (Add these folks to the roster of those who didn’t catch “Westworld,” or more precisely, the novel and 1970s movies that set the stage for it.)
M3GAN’s aggressive, occasionally dark and humorous, desire to protect Cady and spare her harm means the happy times can’t stay forever.
With shrewd timing, director Gerard Johnstone gradually ramps up to those climactic scenes, where the body count and coincidences begin to mount. With Cady turning into a mini monster without M3GAN’s company, the film is also a clever meditation on the dangers of relying on technology as the ultimate nanny.
In this regard, “M3GAN” expertly threads the needle, serving as a warning while still delivering the necessary tension and horror within its limited means and the constraints of a PG-13 rating, all while generally satisfying its audience. Even Gemma’s complete ineptitude as a parent gets the laughs it’s supposed to get.
Since the epidemic began, horror has been one of the most consistent film categories, and “M3GAN” looks to continue that trend. If this is the case, M3GAN might not be the final Blumhouse product.