Review: M3GAN Meets the Demand for Tech Panic

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Horror films are outlets for trending cultural fears, so a movie about a machine-learning robot going violently haywire while serving as caretaker for a child is about as 2020s as it gets.

That’s the story of M3GAN, the titular killer doll whose name is an acronym for “Model 3 Generative Android.” When young Cady’s parents are killed in a freak crash, she ends up in the custody of her tech-toy innovator aunt, Gemma. Workaholic Gemma uses Cady to test M3GAN as a proxy friend and emotional support tool—while at the same time showing the doll off to her bosses as a potentially profitable consumer product.

M3GAN quickly grows ruthlessly and violently protective of Cady. Her capacity for iterative learning allows her to evade Gemma’s control. Eventually, predictably, the worst happens and M3GAN becomes the killer machine to be expected in any horror movie involving robots.

The movie takes unsubtle aim at parents who use devices such as tablets to occupy children. Gemma is warned by a child psychologist that she, not a machine, needs to help Cady work through her trauma. Given the current cultural cachet of this tech panic, it’s not surprising that a sequel has already been announced.

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