“Friendship has evolved.”
Director: Gerard Johnstone / Writers: Akela Cooper, James Wan / Cast: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng, Amie Donald, Jenna Davis, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Lori Dungey, Stephane Garneau-Monten, Amy Usherwood.
Body Count: 6
Laughter Lines: “I have a new primary user now: Me.”
That’s right – it sounds exactly like Child’s Play. And Dolly Dearest. And Annabelle. Actually, this campfest has more in common with the 2019 Child’s Play reboot than any of the others, as the age old tale of our reliance on technology coming back to bite us in the ass. But this one is better.
Starting as it means to go on with an all-out assault courtesy of the commercial for a Furby-like toy, PurrPetual Petz. Nine-year-old Cady irks her parents by playing with the talking, tablet-integrated toy during a roadtrip to a ski lodge, which ultimately turns fatal.
Shortly after, Cady is sent to live with her aunt Gemma, a toy designer who gifted her the annoying thing and is clueless about raising a child, let alone a bereaved one. They connect over one of Gemma’s early inventions, a robot controlled remotely. Cady’s uptick in mood inspires Gemma to revisit an AI companion she’d been working on as a side project – Model 3 Generative Android: M3GAN.
Gemma introduces her prototype M3gan to Cady, pairs her with it, and in no time at all she has a new friend who spews facts, reminds her of chores, sings her ballad versions of Titanium and Bulletproof, and hangs around looking a tiny bit sinister. The trope of ‘protect the human’ programming inevitably leads to interpreting all outsiders as a threat, starting with the neighbour’s aggressive dog, just as Buddi started with a claw-happy cat in the Child’s Play redux.
A nasty pre-teen bully is next to cross the line and ends up being chased into the road and slammed into by an SUV. Gemma begins to suspect M3gan’s configuration might need some work, but finds the doll is against having the hood popped, and learning that M3gan is interfacing with various digital assistants and household smart appliances. However, Gemma’s boss has set up a showcase to show M3gan to the world, planning on retailing her as a stand-in nanny to rich families at $10,000 a pop. M3gan, of course, has other plans.
More people die, M3gan sashays down corridors with confident swagger, stopping at one point to grace a fleeing victim with a dance. If you thought Chucky’s hokeyness was the height of camp, strap in: The bitchy snap-backs, the shades, the digital hijacking of a Ferrari that she zooms off in… I haven’t cackled with glee at a film this much in a long time.
A rare January horror release that made bank, thanks to smart marketing (and TikTok), this won’t be the last we’ve seen of this doll. Whispers of teaming her up with her red-headed cinematic grandpa are already doing the rounds.