Slaying at the Box Office
When Malignant was released in 2021, it set up a new bar for campy, gory, and completely absurd horror-comedies. Blumhouse’s latest release M3GAN does not boast a bonkers twist like Malignant, but it is unapologetically silly in its own way. The audience’s love for it, the constant traction it’s gaining on social media, and the box office numbers are a testament to its success. As of 23rd January, 2023, M3GAN is currently the highest grossing movie of the year with more than $100 million earned so far.
The year is already an anticipated one for the horror genre as we have Scream VI, The Nun 2, Saw 10, Evil Dead Rise, Ari Aster’s Beau is Afraid starring Joaquin Phoenix, and a direct sequel to 1973 classic The Exorcist coming up. M3GAN already seems to be on top of everyone’s list even though so many cultural juggernauts are yet to be released.
Making of a Pop Culture Icon
It also helps that the first trailer for M3GAN last year saw the doll dancing in the most peculiarly-funny way, which went instantly viral. The trailer also had the soundtrack of Taylor Swift’s It’s Nice to Have a Friend, adding to its popularity. What helped M3GAN most was an absolutely hilarious marketing campaign, particularly M3GAN tweeting through the movie’s official handle.
Not only was there a ton of engagement with the audience, but there were sassy takes and comments on casually killing around. There was even a full blown feud with none other than slash horror genre icon Chucky – the og killer doll from the 1988 movie Child’s Play. In one of the tweets, M3GAN says – “now back to this doll who had a lot to say about me the other day in the press, @ChuckyIsReal what’s good?,” a reference to the dramatic exchange between Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj at the MTV Music Video Awards.
Tale as Old as Time, but Evil got an Update
As a movie, M3GAN is absolutely filled with witty yet deeply troubling questions around a lot of issues – mostly emphasizing on parenting, friendship, and to what extent do we allow the invasion of tech to make our lives easier. The dialogues are fun, the jump scares work for the most part, and the scenes involving gore and the shock factor increase at a steady pace. Yet, the finale is still not ‘spectacular’ enough, especially given that it is something that was penned down by horror veteran James Wan.
The most terrifying aspect of M3GAN is definitely the ability of AI to understand human emotions and desires, and then acting accordingly. There are scenes where ME3GAN is being hilarious, but is also standing on a very thin line where she seems like an unhinged, clever serial killer. The plot is as dull as any other horror movie – we follow a young child whose parents passed away in an unfortunate accident and the custody passes on to her aunt, who is devoted to tech work. While there is no contact with dead parents or an ancient malevolent spirit haunting the house, it’s just a little girl trying to make sense of her parent’s sudden death and finding a similar figure to attach herself to.
The movie has its fair share of scenes that will make you contemplate your whole life, which are supplemented by comic bits out of nowhere, making it difficult for us as the audience if this is actually serious or this is a mere joke. It also falls into the territory of black mirror as this time, this is not some nasty demon which can be cast out through the blood of Christ; this is literally AI, which is capable of taking over the entire network of our spaces and essentially controlling what we all do through technology. The mix of animatronics, puppetry, VFC and a child actor has created a marvelous killer doll, which to be very honest, is much entertaining and much better than the CGI water in James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.
She’s A Gay Icon
Horror genre has emphasized on the omnipresence and eternal nature of evil and grief since its inception. The only place where M3GAN diverts, particularly from the movies by A24 is through its firm belief in the institution of family. While A24 movies, specifically movies like Hereditary and Midsommar have successfully attacked the normative institutions of love or family, exposing their true nature as malevolent and vicious. M3GAN, on the other hand, retorts to the unity of family to save the protagonist from evil, which is of a technological understanding here. There are also subtle themes of exploring grief of losing someone, and becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable reality. Having said that, the ending of the movie could have been much more fun, rather, it’s pretty predictable.
With a sequel already in works, M3GAN is already being hailed as a sunglasses wearing gay icon, falling right into the category with Babadook, Pennywise from It, and of recent, Jean Jacket from the horror hit Nope released in 2021-2022. And there’s a good reason for that because even though M3GAN is evil, the movie is about finding a family. M3GAn comes in here as a fierce, protective, gorgeous femme figure (in addition, being one heck of a friend to have) who will fight off your bullies. There have been funny tweets from “me watching M3GAN in a theater while a bunch of twinks shout Mother!!” to “I support Chucky as a true millennial.” If this wasn’t enough, some critics reviewed the movie saying “M3GAN slays, literally” and its growing popularity even led to an equally bonkers Saturday Night Sketch about M3GAN being the next gay icon.
M3GANdoes have a few surprises as the token minority characters are not left to die in the movie. It is much more than a movie at the moment. It is an absolute pop culture force to be reckoned with. Given the pop behemoths it has to stand against this year, we do hope that the team will bring more gore and blood to our screens for the sequel.
Do watch M3GAN – an AI killer doll, filling up the space for Annabelle. M3GAN is currently playing in theaters near you.