M3GAN: A Humorous Shift in the Horror Paradigm


Amelia Knust

Move over Chucky and Annabelle, there’s a new doll in town who’s ready to haunt your nightmares. M3GAN hit the theaters on Jan. 6, 2023, bringing a hilarious new horror story to the world.

Within the past few years, the box office has witnessed lots of miserable failures, especially when it comes to horror movies. Sometimes they’re too predictable or maybe so repulsive that they only attract the bravest of movie-goers. The household horror movie-producing company, Blumhouse, has had a handful of crowd-pleasers, like Get Out (2017) or Paranormal Activity (2007). Still, they have also had many films that have only seemed like a quick cash grab, like Truth Or Dare (2018) or Fantasy Island (2018). However, Blumhouse has certainly gone outside the box with its newest film, M3GAN, following the story of an off-putting AI doll who will stop at nothing (even murder) while trying to protect a young girl, Cady.

If you have been active on any social media lately, your Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter feed has likely been infiltrated by videos or memes of a life-like, dancing doll. That would be the namesake character of the movie, M3GAN, an artificially intelligent creation with no shortness of sass and spunk. The film had gone viral long before it was even released, with immense buzz circulating since the first teaser, which used Taylor Swift’s “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” in the background. This caused pop-culture-fanatic teenagers everywhere to have this movie on their radar. Director Gerard Johnstone not only smartly utilized Swift in his advertising but also made sure to create massive marketing on social media, especially on Twitter.

The official M3GAN movie account has engaged in interviews with pop-culture news accounts and interacted with fans, all with an incredibly up-to-date teenage vernacular. The account even went as far as to engage in sarcastic online arguments with the official Chucky Twitter account, in a war to see which horror doll is superior. The promotion has also appeared in real-life settings, with several instances of doll-costumed actresses creepily appearing at talk shows, football games, and even the Empire State Building. From these large-scale and creative promotions, the movie had established a cult-like following surrounding it, securing millions of fans to be seated in the theater when it was released in early January of this year. 

The plot of the movie is relatively simple, but the clever humor and not-so-subtle societal commentary made watching the film an enjoyable experience from beginning to end. The movie follows Gemma, a roboticist for a modern toy company, who has to take her young niece Cady under her wing after her parents die in a car crash. Gemma, who doesn’t feel fit enough to be a parent, creates a walking-and-talking artificially intelligent doll, the Model 3 Generative Android (nicknamed M3GAN), to help keep Cady busy. The doll quickly bonded with Cady, but the relationship turned dark fast.

Without saying too much, the movie ends with lots of bloodshed from the protective but violent doll, with M3GAN quickly earning her name as an iconic horror movie villain. While there may be a lack of jump-scares or other classic horror elements, M3GAN serves more as a slasher story that gives you an existential dread about the inevitable future of technology. After all, what is scarier than the future?

What has drawn not only me but so many others to the film is the sheer fact that this movie was not made to be taken seriously. There were several moments while I was in the (noticeably-packed) theater when the audience cracked up at M3GAN’s witty lines or hilarious characterizations. Johnstone has mastered the lingo of our generation, with the movie including several amusing one-liners or references that did not go unnoticed.

While the beginning of the film starts slowly as a way to develop a complete exposition on the main characters, there is  non-stop action once Gemma introduces M3GAN to Cady. The movie may not be the scariest in comparison to other movies in the genre, but there is no doubt that M3GAN will become a cult-classic horror film for this generation.

M3GAN has not only been fearlessly killing anyone who opposes her but also has been killing her competition at the box office. On the opening weekend, the film earned a astonishing $30.4 million, despite it only having a budget of $12 million. To no one’s surprise, the audiences of the first week of showings consisted mainly of Gen-Z and Millenials, the film’s target audience. With M3GAN being a low-budget horror movie, it would be expected for it to have a large amount of unsatisfied, disappointed reviews.

However, Rotten Tomatoes sent the internet into overload when they released the critic score for the film, a whopping 95%. To put this in perspective, Avatar has an 82% score; Titanic has a 88% score, and Avengers: Endgame has a 94% score, all now lacking behind the new horror queen of the cinemas. With such a low budget and being in a genre that typically only attracts a specific crowd, M3GAN has broken many boundaries regarding marketing, production, and overall presentation.

M3GAN is a must-see film this year, with its lively and quick-witted story that will entertain anyone. It is unlike any thriller movie you might watch, with characters and plot lines so cleverly aimed at a social-media-crazed audience that you can catch all the niche jokes with no trouble.