Impressions: M3GAN

So a few months ago, the “creepy doll” horror movie M3GAN came out. The reaction to the movie was pretty divisive, as happens with many horror movies. Many loved it as a fun movie, and many bashed it as a crappy movie that was just trying to appeal to Gen Z without bringing anything to the table artistically. I finally got a chance to watch it and walked away with a much more middle-of-the-road reaction to the movie itself and more of a reaction to people’s reactions.

M3GAN follows Cady, a young girl who loses both parents in a tragic accident. She moves in with her aunt, Gemma, who is an expert in robotics and less in human interaction. Gemma had wanted to work on the M3GAN project and instead has been relegated to making cheap robot pets for kids. However, Gemma is inspired by Cady’s interest in her other robots to keep working on M3GAN. At first, it seems great, lonely Cady has a friend, and the company has a chance to release a “toy” that will be life-changing. However, little hints that it is not a good idea start to show.

One coworker calls Gemma out for having M3GAN raise Cady for her. Cady’s therapist also expresses concern over Cady imprinting on M3GAN as a trauma response. Gemma sort of starts to understand people’s concerns but keeps on with the project until it is finally clear that M3GAN is out of control and dangerous.

The movie itself is good enough. It’s a fun popcorn horror movie. It has interesting kills, M3GAN is creepy, and Cady and Gemma’s relationship is sad and sweet. However, it suffers a little in terms of pacing. There is very little ramp-up with M3GAN, who basically goes from “huh, this seems a little off” to full-blown killer rather quickly. A movie like this is served well by its shortness, but I think adding a little more balance with build-up could have helped it.

Cady’s story is sad and actually incredibly well done for a fairly shallow movie, and I don’t mean that as an insult; this type of horror movie is like that. Cady going through the cycle of losing her parents, feeling alone with her aunt, having this friend/doll, and then having to realize that her attachment to it is unhealthy and that she and her aunt need to try harder is well done. It’s sad, it’s sweet, it’s powerful. But it doesn’t entirely fit with the rest of the movie. It is a powerful, sad story and journey through trauma in a dumb but fun, entertaining horror movie. The result is that Cady’s story is not as powerful as it could have been.

That being said, I was still entertained, and overall my criticism didn’t completely turn me off. So that’s already my summary, and a whole lot left to this piece… so why? Well, because, as I said, I had a stronger reaction after seeing it, to what all the buzz was when it first came out.

And that’s what could be deemed the “old man yells at clouds” reaction to this movie. There is a subset of horror fans and writers who have absolutely trashed this movie and the “tiktok-ification” of horror, and to them, I sadly have to say… You are too old. Sorry. I am too. Did I love that, at one point, M3GAN does a little dance before killing someone needlessly? Nope. Do I get that it’s to get people to mimic it on social media for free promotion? Yep. However, unlike other people who have noticed and pointed that out, I am also old enough to know that dynamic has been at play with popcorn horror movies forever. Do you really think that every single dumb Freddy pun was added because they believed it really fit the narrative and added something to the story? Or do you realize those lines are insanely quotable and that we would all go to school on Monday and share them after watching the movie Friday night? Or the famous “see Paris Hilton die” marketing for House of Wax and the selling of shirts saying, “I saw Paris Hilton get killed.” I mean, we understand those are the same types of things? Just for a different generation who is living life differently (more online).

A lot of elements of this movie did not fully appeal to me. While I appreciate campy, borderline horror comedies like this, I am also just not the target age group. I rolled my eyes and was annoyed at some of the cheesier elements, like M3GAN’s singing or, again, the dance. But also get they are meant to be campy, and they are meant to appeal to younger people. Killer doll randomly slipping into Disney Princess mode makes sense from a satirical standpoint, but it is also going to mean more to the target demographic because they are young, and that juxtaposition is more in their minds than mine.

I am not saying only young people can enjoy the movie. I enjoyed it, and I am hardly young. What I am saying is that horror movies like this are designed for a younger audience, so it starts to feel a little ridiculous when older people watch it and complain about the immaturity or the appeal to the social media age.

Our popcorn horror movies did the exact same thing. It just feels different because we are old now. Screaming about this movie being garbage because you didn’t like the stuff that is specifically not designed for you is pointless.

Yes, there are problems that apply no matter what the age of the person watching. Again, the pacing is off. I also think the attempts to do so much with hitting camp, actual serious emotional moments, gore, over-the-top performances, etc, means that no one element ever felt fully fleshed out. All of them felt like they needed a little more work or not be included.

Conversely, the need to appeal to a younger audience and the using tropes that exist in these types of movies – like the completely useless adults even though they are all supposed to be super smart – are just issues that exist because of the type of movie it is. It may mean that I didn’t enjoy the movie as much, but that’s my age rearing its ugly head, not the movie failing some standard.

It’s not that I have a problem with people who didn’t like the movie; I get it. I don’t even have a problem with people who pointed out the solid criticisms of the movie. What I take issue with is the people who are pointing out the very clear signs that this movie is meant for a younger audience, declaring those things bad, and this movie trash.

In the end, it was a good movie. A solid middle-of-the-road 7 out of 10, or whatever version of that you would point to. I would recommend this to most genre fans. I don’t understand the extremely positive reactions because of the flaws I mentioned, but I also realize that’s somewhat my age and also just somewhat tastes. There are horror movies I will defend adamantly that a lot of people would probably say, “yeah, it’s good, but it’s not great.” The extreme hatred for it though?

So bottom line, if you like fun, camp, and can deal with a bit of cheese and the movie not being the scariest or tense, you should give it a watch. It’s a good “have a few drinks and laugh with friends” movie. If you have a younger person in your life experimenting with horror, this might be a fairly safe movie (I don’t know about the unrated version). It’s not going to be too scary, or too gory, nor is it a slow burn that might turn some people off the genre. If you are an older person that is kind of done with this type of horror movie, this isn’t going to bring you back. I would recommend something more serious or something that is going to bring nostalgia specific to you and your tastes.

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