M3GAN (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): One nasty AI robot

“M3GAN” is an amusing horror film about one little but nasty AI robot who simply follows its programmed nature. Like many famous horror movie figures ranging from Norman Bates to Dr. Hannibal Lector, it is just driven by its own twisted behavioral logic to the extreme while trying to do right things in its viewpoint, and that surely makes it an interesting horror movie character to amuse and horrify us.

This AI robot is called “Model 3 Generative Android” (M3GAN), which has been developed by Gemma (Allison Williams), a smart and ambitious female engineer who recently happens to take care of her young niece Cady (Violet McGraw) after Cady lost her dear parents due to one tragic car accident. While struggling to provide a comfortable domestic environment for her niece, Gemma comes to have one nice idea when her niece is brightened up a bit by an old big robot in the basement of her house, and that is how M3GAN is subsequently introduced to Cady.

Cady is understandably awkward at first, but she instantly befriends M3GAN, and M3GAN soon becomes another important figure in Gemma’s house as doing more than babysitting Cady day by day. As a matter of fact, mainly thanks to its quick learning process, M3GAN turns out to be much more successful than Gemma expected, and Gemma’s following presentation impresses not only her obnoxious boss but also those investors willing to finance its production as soon as possible. Although it will be certainly quite expensive, this may be much cooler than the latest hit product of their company, and Gemma is glad for finally having a career breakthrough she has yearned for years.

However, of course, Gemma ignores a few bad signs from M3GAN just because of how happy her niece is with M3GAN. While surely ready to serve Gemma and her niece, M3GAN is also quite willing to do anything for Cady’s welfare, and that aspect is quite apparent when M3GAN comes across an annoying trouble with one vicious dog belonging to a rather unpleasant middle-aged lady living right next to Gemma’s house. According to its programmed logic which is constantly upgraded by its daily input, the dog as well as that middle-aged lady should be eliminated for Cady’s welfare, so we are accordingly served with a couple of nasty moments when M3GAN decides to be a little more active than usual.

My personal favorite moment is involved with some unlikable boy whom Cady happens to meet at a sort of alternative school event in a nearby forest. When Cady and this boy happen to be alone without anyone else around them, he soon shows his very unpleasant sides, and that is where M3GAN enters the picture for giving him a lesson he will never forget. Although the movie went through some reshooting for rated PG-13 instead of R in US, you may cringe as watching this disagreeable boy getting his gruesome comeuppance in the end.

Of course, there eventually comes a point where Gemma belatedly comes to see what is going on around her and Cady because of M3GAN, and we surely get a series of intense moments as she tries to protect her niece form M3GAN, but the movie still maintains its morbid sense of fun even at this point. Although the trailer of the movie shows a bit too much of this climactic part, I enjoy a darkly humorous moment when M3GAN dances a little before approaching to its latest target, and I certainly appreciate how that big old robot becomes quite useful later in the story (I would be more delighted if that famous line from “Aliens” (1986) were borrowed: “Get away from her, you bitch!!”).

The effectiveness of the movie depends a lot on how convincing M3GAN looks on the screen, and director Gerard Johnstone and his crew members did a fairly good job on the whole. While it is often supplemented with CGI, M3GAN feels physically palpable as embodied by child actress Amie Donald, and the unnerving flat voice performance by Jenna Davis adds some extra uncanny quality to our homicidal robot character.

Because the movie is mainly about M3GAN, the two main cast members of the movie usually step aside for M3GAN, but they act as much as they can do with their broad archetype roles. While Allison Williams, who has been more prominent thanks to her substantial supporting turn in “Get Out” (2017), is believable in her character development along the story, young performer Violet McGraw has her small moments to shine as she flawlessly interacts with M3GAN during several key scenes, and she and Williams convey to us well the considerable awkwardness between their characters.

In conclusion, “M3GAN” is another typical horror product you can expect from its producers Jason Blum and James Wan, who incidentally wrote the screenplay with Akela Cooper. Although I did not recommend many of Wan’s films “The Conjuring” (2013) and “Malignant” (2021) mainly because they did not satisfy me enough without breaking any new ground in their genre territories, but I came to admire some of those horror flicks directed or produced by him, and I have actually been considering re-evaluating “Malignant”, which is a little too flawed for my taste but was certainly one of the wildest and craziest horror films of 2021 in my humble opinion. Anyway, I heard that the sequel to “M3GAN” is already being planned at present, and I sincerely hope that the sequel will be wilder and crazier than its predecessor.

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