Review: ‘M3GAN’ and the thrill of pure camp

By Marvin Villanueva, Feb. 7, 2023

“M3GAN,” the new comedy horror film released by the same production team behind “Get Out” and “The Black Phone,” Blumhouse Productions, is a riotous romp that appeals to both horror-fanatics and horror-avoiders alike through its hilariously clever screenplay and its electrifying performances. 

From writing team Akela Cooper and James Wan, the duo behind 2021’s “Malignant,” and director Gerard Johnstone, “M3GAN” shines through its subversion of the horror genre by blending the violence and suspense of a psychological thriller with a satire on tech culture and the killer doll films that have come before it. 

The film centers on Gemma (Allison Williams), a robotics engineer who works for a high-tech toy company in Seattle, receiving news that her sister and her brother-in-law were killed in a snow truck accident, leaving her to be the guardian of her orphaned niece, Cady (Violet McGraw). 

Through her ineffectiveness to connect to and parent Cady, Gemma decides to finish her most groundbreaking invention, M3GAN, which stands for Model 3 Generative Android, a humanoid robot doll powered by artificial intelligence made to adapt to its user and be both an adolescent friend and a parental caregiver. As M3GAN begins to expand her capabilities, she becomes obsessed with keeping Cady away from harm and targets people she considers a threat. 

With a story that could indulge into the typical stylings of the murderous doll films before it like “Annabelle” or “Child’s Play,” “M3GAN” diverges from expectations and succeeds through its embrace of camp ideals. Through this definition, audience members can see the appeal in the absurdity of “M3GAN.” 

As M3GAN is first introduced in the film in her completed form, we see her in a preppy beige dress with a huge bow, taking off a pair of shades as she enters Gemma’s home. This impeccable fashion sense adds to not only M3GAN’s gaudiness as a character but adds to the hilarity of the film.  

Each time the camera pans to M3GAN’s robotic eyes darting her anger and annoyance with various characters like Gemma’s boss David (Ronny Chieng), her bitter neighbor Celia (Lori Dungey) or Cady’s grief therapist Lydia (Amy Usherwood) her quick stare is so striking, it’s unflinchingly funny. 

Even as Williams and McGraw give emotionally grounded performances as an aunt and niece at grips with their own personal grief, M3GAN’s ability to undercut Gemma’s authority with a quick one-liner or a death stare, steals each scene, adding to the film’s comic flair and provides a unique twist to the classic horror villain persona. One that’s so charmingly evil but so over-the-top in its silly mannerisms and its approach to murdering its victims, it becomes more whimsical than fear-inducing.  

“M3GAN,” is a fun viewing experience because of this, as the film never takes itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to revel in its campiness. In one scene, M3GAN attacks a character while doing an intricate dance including front-flips and twirls in her same chic fashion. This personality is shot so unwaveringly exaggerated and engrossing that audiences begin to root for M3GAN even when they shouldn’t. 

The only flaw within the film is its PG-13 rating, as this limits the level of gore M3GAN can create. But despite this, each horror scene in the film is depicted in an outlandishly theatrical way and still holds the sensibility of a thriller within its ethos. Through its quaintly eerie score that’s played throughout and the eye-catchingly fast editing of some of its grisliest scenes, “M3GAN” excels at being both an intense horror chiller and an uproarious comedy. 

Wildly hysterical and skillfully constructed, “M3GAN,” is a feat in modern horror at a time when other films of the same genre may overvalue its own seriousness. The entire point of camp is to “dethrone the serious” and in its essence, it is a playful and anti-serious way to respond to life’s humorlessness with frivolity.  

Through its cheeky, camp approach, “M3GAN” achieves to have this very essence within its script and its performances, that it should inspire a new rise of campy horror stories in popular media as this film flourishes through its irreverence. 

Feature image courtesy of Jackson Gray

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