M3GAN: The campy killer AI bot and her ‘best friend’


Courtesy of Universal Pictures

AI doll M3GAN, short for Model 3 Generative Android, sings, dances and literally slays her way through this so-bad-it’s-good slasher flick.

Joey Gonzalez, Life Editor

I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen the extensive marketing campaign for the film “M3GAN,” from TikToks of her dancing to her several look-alikes unleashed on the New York City subway. Before the film was even released, the artificially intelligent doll had reached internet fame and fans were eagerly waiting to see her in action. I had the chance to see the film for myself. As a comedic slasher about the dangers of modern parenting and advancements in AI technology, M3GAN certainly didn’t disappoint—even when the plot did.  

The plot itself was fairly lackluster, having already been done before in a number of previous films: An AI robot or autonomous doll suddenly turns evil and decides to kill everyone around them. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t thoroughly entertained, but it was more so from the iconic killer rather than the entirely overdone plot. The film follows an eight-year-old girl named Cady (Violet McGraw) whose parents die in a car accident and is sent to live with her emotionally unavailable aunt. The aunt, Gemma (Allison Williams), is an engineer for a toy company and has been secretly working on a life-sized autonomous doll to replace all other toys. Her project is shut down by her boss and she decides to continue her work at home. She introduces the M3GAN, Model 3 Generative Android, to her niece and they quickly begin to bond. M3GAN is programmed to protect Cady at all costs—this quickly turns deadly. Scattered throughout the film are iconic scenes of the camp killer M3GAN, from the scene where she sings “Bulletproof” by La Roux as a bedtime remedy, to her hallway dance scene where she hunts down the boss that cut her programming. The plot itself was a combination of fairly forgettable classic slasher tropes, but with a killer as iconic as M3GAN, the film will certainly be remembered.

The marketing scheme for the film certainly cemented M3GAN as an iconic killer, with her strawberry blonde curls and her wardrobe reminiscent of an elderly woman in line at Chico’s. She wears a trench coat-esque dress and a striped long-sleeved shirt with an obnoxiously large bow at the collar. M3GAN certainly nails the doll aesthetic, but her personality is really what seals the deal. Despite going completely rogue in the film, she continues to slay—both literally and figuratively—such as in the aforementioned dance scene. Her kills were fairly creative but a bit lackluster. The first time she kills someone, M3GAN pushes a child down a small hill to be hit by a car. And while it was a shocker, she just used her surroundings to kill him. Her other kills do get a bit more creative but they’ve definitely been used before in other horror films, from pressure washing chemicals into the neighbor’s mouth to hacking at office workers with a paper cutter. They sound gruesome on paper but you would think that a killer AI would get a bit more creative in the way she kills people, especially for such an iconic villain. 

Despite the film’s flaws, I was thoroughly engaged with it the entire time. I’m coining the phrase, “the Ma effect,” after the 2019 Octavia Spencer horror movie “Ma.” “Ma” struggled with similar plot issues and I found the movie more funny than scary. But it became such an iconic film simply because of its killer—Octavia Spencer. The same concept applies to M3GAN, where the iconic killer carries a film whose plot doesn’t exactly hold up on its own. And there isn’t necessarily a problem with that. Sometimes films don’t need to be revolutionary to be entertaining. “M3GAN” makes relevant references and keeps the audience engaged despite being predictable, and while the film could have been significantly stronger by addressing these problems, I was still extremely entertained and would put the campy android on my list of favorite killers. I would highly recommend streaming “M3GAN” if you have the opportunity—it will definitely have you laughing and might hit you with a jumpscare or two. Thankfully a sequel is already in the works for those of you who enjoyed the killer AI as much as I did.