If you aren’t a part of the community as I am, the world of Gay Twitter™ went absolutely hog wild when the trailer for M3GAN dropped back in October. Within mere minutes, drag queens all across the world were dropping their current Halloween costume plans to be the first one to play the wide-eyed, bewiggled evil robot girl for Halloween, if only to be able to do the dances that have now been memed to all hell and back. Regardless of whether the film was good or not, M3GAN was going to be a sensation on its marketing alone (and a very lucrative early January release date, when we’re particularly rabid for something campy, and possibly very bad). Still, there was something to be said about how all-in Blumhouse seemed to be going for M3GAN, which can’t be said for all of their releases, many of which they simply let release with no consequence whatsoever. Still, as the first production between Blumhouse and James Wan’s Atomic Monster, which has been heavily rumored to be merging in the near future, M3GAN might just represent what’s to come for this low-budget, high-yield horror behemoth.
When toy designer and roboticist Gemma (Allison Williams) loses her sister and brother-in-law in a car accident, she is tasked with taking care of her young niece, Cady (Violet McGraw). Overwhelmed by suddenly becoming a parent, as well as with work stress, Gemma uses the opportunity to test out the talents of her secret artificial intelligence product M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android) with Cady. While the hyper-realistic robot comforts Cady in her time of need, M3GAN’s operating directive of protecting Cady kicks into overdrive, killing those who get in the way of Cady’s physical and emotional protection. Gemma must find a way to relieve Cady of her attachment to the increasingly homicidal android before it’s too late.
With just two films (the other being James Wan’s Malignant), screenwriter Akela Cooper has established herself as one of the best horror screenwriters of her time (I don’t count Hell Fest because I didn’t see it…but maybe I should). She has an inimitable way of balancing uncanny, but classic camp, with that of sleek, modern flourishes that keeps the often-hilarious material she works with thrilling and engaging. M3GAN isn’t a film that will particularly keep me up at night, but I never once wasn’t riveted by the weird, wacky world that Cooper built in that of the Funki Toy Company. It’s very similar to that feeling of watching Malignant for the first time in realizing that the world these characters live in is completely detached from any sort of reality, and the sooner you let that go, the sooner you realize how much Cooper has up her sleeves with that of satirical storytelling, letting the satire actually be gut-bustingly funny, as opposed to some sort of faux-intellectual gag that immediately makes me feel like the screenwriter is writing down to me. M3GAN is perhaps one of the best social satires in a very long time thanks to Cooper’s writing style which never sacrifices the campy fun in the way of its simple, but effective message.
Despite itself, as well as Cooper’s previous experience with hard-R slashers, M3GAN feels surprisingly at home with its PG-13 rating. I never felt like the film was watered down to a degree where I was watching a censored R-rated film be cut for a more marketable rating. As a cautionary tale, as well as one that has resonated heavily with younger audiences already in its marketing, I found the PG-13-ness of it all to be rather welcome. This isn’t a film that relies so heavily on extreme violence, and it works out better for it.
All this comes together nicely in the hands of New Zealand director Gerard Johnstone, who marries the horror and comedy together wonderfully. Horror-comedies are tricky business, as many can’t get the balance quite right to actually pull off the seemingly disparate genres. Still, once in a blue moon, someone gets it right, and the pairing of Cooper’s writing and Johnstone’s direction hits the sweet spot that allows for M3GAN to be seriously funny, without needing to be a parody, as well as enjoyably frightening, without being oppressive. On top of that, it delivers an even better solution in making its horror funny, and its comedy horrific. It doesn’t go back and forth looking for a moment to insert a joke, but rather incorporates them directly into the violent proceedings.
“Balance” is the key word when reviewing this film. M3GAN isn’t the most unpredictable film in the world, nor is it the first to tell a story like this in horror, but what makes it different is its ability to take both horror and comedy elements and blend them into a hybrid that just works. Already, M3GAN is a wonderfully fresh addition to the collection of iconic horror villains who I hope gets a million sequels and makes a billion dollars. This film is going to be an absolute sensation with audiences, and the film truly does play best in a packed theater with tons of viewers in on the joke. It’s also a wonderful example of the ways in which queer communities can adopt films and characters as our own in search for our place in the media landscape, even if the film makes zero references to anything regarding the subject. We will embrace non-queer media that compels us more than queer media that doesn’t, and I love that we, as a community, can make those decisions regarding our representation, and even happier that we have decided to adopt M3GAN. It defies all “early January film” allegations and is perhaps one of the funniest films I’ve seen in some time. An absolute knockout for Blumhouse and Atomic Monster.
Perhaps the only thing looking to hurt it is the decision the gays will have to make whether to go see this on opening night or stay home and watch the premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Decisions, decisions…
In theaters January 6th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official M3GAN website.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.