27th January 2023
Words: Christopher Richmond
At first glance, the genres of horror and comedy appear to be opposing genres, devoid of any overlap, each of which existing on the other end of the cinematic spectrum to the other. But in fact the opposite is true. Whilst it’s true that they illicit vastly different responses from their audiences, the fact that they illicit responses at all is what binds them together. The two genres are closely linked, related in the fact that they are the two genres above all others which cause a physical, visceral reaction in their audience. Laughter and fear are opposite versions of each other, each unable to exist without the other. It’s a fascinating dichotomy, and it’s a dichotomy that is expertly toyed with in Blumhouse’s latest, M3GAN, the first surprise hit of the year.
The plot deals itself with the creation of M3GAN, an AI-infected life-like toy doll who spends the movie befriending a young girl, impressing her with Tik Tok dances and patchy renditions of Sia songs, before inevitably turning bloody and murderous. It’s as preposterous as it is creepy, with its narrative beats rendering it into a modern-day Frankenstein’s Monster of Chucky, The Terminator and Scary Movie. It’s a thoroughly modern fable, dependent entirely on the increasingly legitimate fears that the advent of AI holds within its remit, delving into genuinely concerning themes of child dependency on modern technology. Holding the piece together is a solid central performance by the always-reliable Allison Williams, whilst the various girls which make up the construction of M3GAN herself tap effectively into the horrors of the uncanny valley, distorting normal voice and movement just enough for it to become creepy.
M3GAN has been the first runaway success of the year; it grossed $124 million on a $12 million budget, and is currently sitting at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the highest grossing film of the year so far. And it’s the expertly handled blend of horror and comedy that has contributed to its success. Crucially, the film is in on the joke. It’s camp and it’s silly, and it’s borderline ludicrous at points, but it’s very much a deliberate ludicrousness. Naysayers who don’t get it might call it cringe, but its stupidity isn’t accidental. And it’s therefore incredibly fun to watch. The film is a little short of actual, genuine creepy scares, and its 12 Rating to lure in the teenage crowd holds it back from committing to the gory violence that the titular character commits, but as a fun night out in the cinema, it’s perfect.