Blumhouse, as a studio, takes a shotgun approach to cinema. They are apparently willing to give the green light to any creator and any idea that crosses their desk. On the one hand, it has allowed them to finance some of the most important works of modern times. On the other, it leads to weird confusing projects like M3GAN.
After the long and painful death of parody cinema, it seems easy to assume that any film that makes it to the silver screen would avoid this label like the plague. But the promotional material for a movie likes M3GAN begins to raise questions about the line between scary and funny.
The trailer for Blumhouse’s M3GAN looks and sounds like an extremely well-funded parody of other horror movie trailers. The setup is pretty generic, a riff on Child’s play with a robot doll the same size as the child it is going to terrorize. It starts with a woman unexpectedly given custody of her recently orphaned niece. She is a brilliant and skilled roboticist, but she is now struggling to deal with a semi-close relative for whom she will be fully responsible for the next decade or so. To ease the child’s loneliness, she introduces her new creation into the house. Things go well at first, but in the grand tradition of evil robot movies, M3GAN becomes a threat. When the horror aspects of the film kick in, M3GAN immediately loses the thrill she was meant to embody. She drops on all fours to attack, making a funny one Fortnite dance, and kills with found objects. And it’s all set to the tune of a comically slowed-down version of a Taylor Swift track from 2019. Should we laugh?
The music really is the perfect foundation for M3GANits trailer. Lowered versions of popular songs are the go-to hack producer’s method of drawing attention to a movie trailer. The trailer definitely gets some bonus points for setting a good portion of its dialogue to the song, and really committing to the choice. The most obvious point of comparison for M3GAN is it Child’s play franchise. That series, which has shown impressive longevity over several decades, has a darkly comic tone most of the time. Chucky, its main antagonist, speaks almost exclusively in snarky one-liners. Several entries in the franchise are comedies with large amounts of gore, rather than horror films with a few jokes. The Child’s play series can almost function as a spectrum. But where does it M3GAN fall on that graph?
It is very clear that M3GAN operates at camp level. The idea of a robot killing people is obviously well-worn. Ever since the story that introduced the word robot, a huge percentage of stories featuring humanoid machines have seen them eventually attack humanity. Sometimes the terrorist object seems like a perfectly efficient artificial intelligent being, other times it has a fully formed personality. The creepy puppet trope is just basic subversion of expectation. It’s taking a child’s toy and making it scary. Is there something important in combining these two common horror concepts? Perhaps a comment on technology’s impact on children? Could M3GAN be a metaphor for the iPad every baby grows up with today? If it is, it gives no indication of those themes in the trailer. While there may be a deeper meaning to the film, it seems to sell itself on the appeal of a campy sci-fi slasher.
Blumhouse makes a lot of horror movies. Many of them have a very comedic tone alongside jump scares and violence. Congratulations on the death anniversary and its spiritual successor Scary are debatable parodies that mock existing films by inserting slasher films into their premises. The cleansing franchise, arguably their flagship project, has a good bit of social satire between its horror scenes. In its trailers, M3GAN reveals two or three “scary” scenes, all of which are far more amusing than they are terrifying. Why does M3GAN get down on all fours to pursue its enemies? Why does she have at least two dance scenes? These elements of the film read like jokes, but nothing else in the trailer carries that tone. Ironically, the trailer can only get a reaction for a couple of moments, and those bits are a lot funnier than they seem intended to be.
M3GAN seems like a movie made up of a bunch of random ideas. It’s reminiscent of sketch comedy. The film’s director Gerard Johnstone has referred to ideas in the film as concepts that he and the writers found amusing. There’s no real way to imagine the moments in this trailer being anything other than funny when they’re in the context of the full-length movie. M3GAN may be funny on purpose, but there’s a long and wonderful history of horror movies that are funny by mistake. Whether they aim for comedy horror or lack clues, M3GAN can be a lot of fun.
MORE: Jason Blum decided to dress up as M3gan at the Blumhouse Halloween party