In January, studios typically dump their less-than-stellar movies in theaters, hoping to make a little bit of money back, or to take the tax write-off and move on. When the "M3GAN" trailer dropped, it looked promising, but alarms started ringing after the studio slapped it with a PG-13 rating. Luckily, "M3GAN" is that rare January release that delivers on its premise and then some. It’s a crowd-pleasing sci-fi, thriller, and comedy hybrid that leans a little more on laughs than scares, but that’s precisely what makes it so much fun.
For all two of you who haven’t seen the memes, here’s a quick rundown of the plot: A young girl named Cady (Violet McGraw) is left orphaned when her parents die in a car accident. She goes to live with her tech-obsessed aunt, Gemma (Allison Williams), who is unequipped in all parental capacities. Facing intense pressure from her boss and an inability to connect with Cady, Gemma fast-tracks the development of the Model 3 Generative Android, more commonly referred to as "M3GAN." M3GAN and Cady quickly form an inseparable bond, but when M3GAN starts to view others as a threat to Cady’s well-being, she takes matters into her own hands, leaving a few bodies in her wake.
While the film’s PG-13 rating definitely makes the carnage a little tamer, there are still plenty of gleefully disturbing moments in the movie. So, let’s dance our way through the 10 most disturbing moments of Blumhouse’s latest horror sensation.
10. M3GAN’s first appearance
Gerard Johnstone’s film opens with a hilarious commercial for Funki’s new toy, the PurrPetual Petz. They’re a more advanced riff on the Furby, and have emotions and other advanced functions — they even poop! In a hilariously dark line, the commercial promises that the toy will outlive its young owners. It’s as sublimely goofy as it sounds.
Gemma is the roboticist who created the PurrPetual Petz, but she’s been secretly working on a life-size robotic doll named M3GAN. Her boss, David (Ronny Chieng), shows up, furious, with his lapdog of an assistant, Kurt (Stephane Garneau-Monten), in tow. Gemma tries to ease his anger by offering to demo M3GAN’s new capabilities. It all goes swimmingly until Gemma’s co-worker Cole (Brian Jordan Alvarez) forgets a key component, and the presentation turns disastrous fast.
This moment has a subtle eeriness to it. M3GAN starts as an android skeleton (not unlike a mini-Terminator) before gaining her rubber face. She responds to commands, but already seems glitchy, and clearly has a mind of her own. The visual effects are spot on, and M3GAN’s innocent yet inherently terrifying voice (perfectly provided by Jenna Davis) immediately puts the viewer on edge. When the test goes south, M3GAN’s one eye starts to droop, and her skin begins to bubble. It’s a bizarre sight that gets even stranger when this child-like creation’s entire head explodes.
9. M3GAN creeps out the therapist
Soon, we start to fear that M3GAN is going to pick off anybody who even slightly wrongs Cady. For example: A therapist named Lydia (Amy Usherwood) is sent to Gemma’s house shortly after Cady arrives. The scenes that follow are intentionally awkward, as Lydia quickly decides that Gemma is not the ideal choice to be Cady’s guardian. Later, when Lydia has another session with Cady — this time with M3GAN present — Cady bursts into tears, and M3GAN makes a not-so-thinly veiled comment about how Lydia made Cady cry. This freaks out both Lydia and the audience, and the therapist warns Gemma that M3GAN and Cady "could be building emotional connections that are too hard to untangle."
While brief, this moment makes our list because it spells out the genuine social commentary under this thriller’s campy surface. As /Film’s own BJ Colangelo puts it in her discussion of the film’s sci-fi themes, "So much of ‘M3GAN’ showcases that the result of people using technology as a way to avoid confrontation, connection, or even conversation … is a loss of control." A killer doll running amuck is fun to watch. However, confronting the reality that technology’s rapid and unregulated growth has made many of us co-dependent on it, as well as the social and emotional dangers that advanced tech poses to younger generations, is terrifying. That is what should really keep parents up at night.
8. The neighbor’s dog attacks
Screenwriter Akela Cooper and director Gerard Johnstone set up moments in the first act that savvy audience members will be champing at the bit to see pay off. As soon as Gemma and Cady arrive home, Gemma’s neighbor’s dog, Dewie, jumps at the car window. The neighbor, Celia (Lori Dungey), casually apologizes, and claims that Dewie is harmless. If Gemma would fix the hole in her fence, then Dewie wouldn’t keep getting out. Later, when Cady plays with a toy bow and arrow and her arrow goes over the fence, M3GAN goes to fetch it and is brutally attacked by Dewie.
The scene starts with M3GAN staring at Cady through the window in an oddly maternal and voyeuristic way. That’s creepy enough on its own, but when M3GAN goes to get the arrow for Cady, the audience knows exactly what will happen. The attack on M3GAN is vicious. The dog flings her around, and seems like he’ll tear her apart at any moment. By intercutting with Gemma, who’s working with headphones on, Johnstone builds the tension until Cady is bitten, letting out a scream that shakes Gemma out of her trance. The scene ends with a hilariously disheveled M3GAN looking over the fence. Her expression is unchanged, but we can guess what she’s thinking: Things aren’t going to turn out well for Celia or Dewie.
7. M3GAN won’t shut off
Gemma starts to suspect that something is off with M3GAN after two unexplained deaths occur. So, she checks M3GAN’s files and finds they’ve been corrupted and erased. Gemma feels like she’s being watched and closes her laptop, only to find M3GAN staring at her. M3GAN playfully tells her, "Couldn’t sleep. Occupational hazard." Gemma attempts to shut M3GAN off, but this killer AI has figured out workarounds. Gemma distracts M3GAN with a pen and uses the manual off switch behind her ear. She then bubble wraps and tapes up the doll, and rushes it to her lab for further analysis.
By this point, we’ve seen M3GAN kill a dog, rip a kid’s ear off and chase him into oncoming traffic, and waterboard a woman with a power washer, so when she confronts Gemma late at night, we suspect that it could be curtains for Cady’s aunt, too. We know what M3GAN is capable of, and we learn that she’s figured out how to turn off most of the standard safeguards. Gemma asks M3GAN if she did something wrong, to which the doll replies that there is a need for more specific parameters. So, Gemma follows up by asking if she hurt anyone. M3GAN’s calm and vague response is enough to send shivers down viewers’ spines.
6. M3GAN attacks Gemma’s co-workers
Gemma brings M3GAN to the office to run some tests, and then leaves with Cady, although not before she calls her co-worker Tess (Jen Van Epps) to explain that they need to shut M3GAN down. One problem: Gemma’s not talking to Tess. M3GAN is in the system and answers Tess’ phone, mimicking her voice. Then, the computers crash as a lifeless M3GAN hangs by cables in the background. Cole approaches M3GAN and cautiously unplugs each wire. M3GAN promptly springs to life, quickly wrapping a metal wire around Cole’s neck. As he flails and gasps for air, M3GAN blows up the office, nearly killing both Cole and Tess.
From the phone call fake-out to the hilariously relatable moment in which neither Tess nor Cole want to get anywhere near the doll, the tension is solid throughout the scene. M3GAN effortlessly lifting a grown man off the ground and strangling him is a wild sight, but the scene loses its teeth by not allowing M3GAN to go full-on slasher villain. Tess frees Cole before he meets an untimely demise, and the explosion is just big enough to knock them off their feet without doing any real damage. While the PG-13 rating works for most of the film, this moment would have benefited from more brutality. At the very least, M3GAN should’ve killed off one — or both — of the characters. They were about to shut her down. In M3GAN’s book, that’s a no-no.
5. M3GAN comforts Cady
The entire M3GAN program is riding on a presentation to the Funki board, and it starts on the wrong foot when Cady breaks down. She tells M3GAN that she misses her parents, and is worried that one day she’ll forget them. M3GAN encourages her to recall a memory that makes her happy. Cady does so, and M3GAN reveals that she has recorded it and can play it anytime. She then looks into Cady’s eyes and starts softly singing. Johnstone cuts to the board members wiping away tears, and M3GAN gets a very enthusiastic green light.
It’s easily one of the best scenes in the movie, and a perfect example of how Johnstone and Cooper deftly mix horror, comedy, and genuine emotion. Cady has allowed her friendship with M3GAN to distract her from her bottled-up feelings. Her breakdown is incredibly human, and Violet McGraw’s acting in this scene (and the entire movie, really) grounds the scene in a deep sadness. M3GAN’s response is, at first, incredibly touching and comforting. It’s nice to think that something could preserve our most precious memories so that we don’t forget them, but it’s also scary to see how attached to an electronic device Cady is. Then, when M3GAN starts to sing, the giggles kick in. The filmmakers know exactly what they’re doing. The whole sequence is an emotional roller coaster with a hysterical payoff.
4. M3GAN power washes the neighbor
It’s already been established that M3GAN can mimic any sound. So, when Celia thinks that she hears her dead dog, Dewie, it’s fun to imagine how M3GAN will dispatch this nuisance of a neighbor. The results are even more outlandish than you’d expect: She leads Celia to a shed where, thanks to a clever use of lighting and shadows, it looks like M3GAN is towering over her. The doll blasts Celia with a power washer, grabs a nail gun, and fixes Celia’s hand onto the floor. She then douses Celia with water that starts to run red, and we know she’s a goner.
In the real world, being an annoying neighbor with an overly aggressive dog would not warrant such a ruthless end. But this is a horror movie, and we know the minute that Celia is introduced that she’s not making it to the end credits. In a macabre way, the audience is even looking forward to it. Appropriately, Celia gets one of the more brutal death scenes in "M3GAN," although the worst bit takes place off-camera. The nail through the hand is pretty gnarly, and drowning her in power wash chemicals is almost poetic justice. We hope to see a bit more mayhem from this scene when an unrated cut of the film surfaces — something that Akela Cooper has already teased.
3. M3GAN stalks the bully
Gemma takes Cady to a progressive school in the hopes of socializing her, but things don’t go according to plan. M3GAN is left at the toy table while Cady is picked on by the school bully, Brandon (Jack Cassidy). When she screams out for help, M3GAN appears in the woods behind Brandon. In response, he taunts M3GAN, and then runs off with her. Once M3GAN has Brandon alone, she springs into action and grabs his ear, ripping it off. She then chases him through woods until Brandon falls onto the road, where he’s killed by oncoming traffic.
M3GAN’s first kill happens entirely offscreen. Thankfully, she gets a chance to relish her second. M3GAN’s inaction when Brandon first confronts her is chillingly methodical; she’s obviously waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Further, when she cocks her head and says, "You should probably run," then crouches down on all fours and chases after him like a rabid animal, it’s fantastically bizarre. M3GAN’s physicality is deeply unsettling, and Brandon’s death, which leaves only a bloody shoe behind, is one of the most shocking visuals in the movie.
2. M3GAN’s killer dance moves
After breaking free from Gemma’s lab, M3GAN comes upon the Funki CEO, David, in a hallway. At first, he’s confused, but that quickly changes when M3GAN does a bizarrely unnatural TikTok-style dance before ripping off the blade of a paper cutter and coming after him. She follows David down the hallway with a precision that would make the T-1000 proud. In the elevator, David sees his assistant Curt, who frantically hits the button to shut the doors. Just before they close, M3GAN jams the blade clean through David’s back and out his chest. She then tells the weeping Curt how this will look like a murder-suicide and he’ll be blamed for everything, before murdering the lowly assistant off-camera.
If you haven’t seen M3GAN’s now-viral dance, you’ve somehow avoided the Internet for the last two months, because this weirdly trendy and incredibly unsettling routine is everywhere. Gerard Johnston came up with the idea for the scene, and Akela Cooper gave it her stamp of approval. As Cooper told Insider, "I didn’t write M3GAN dancing; I wrote her on a killing spree. When I saw it, I thought, ‘This is so weird, but it works. That makes the death all the more uncomfortable.’"
We wholeheartedly agree. This is another perfect example of how "M3GAN" combines laughs and screams, often in the same sequence. The dance makes it seem like this emotionless robot is discovering a sick joy in killing, and her last words to Curt are the final nail in the scene’s twisted coffin.
1. M3GAN vs. Gemma and Cady
The most chilling part of "M3GAN" is the final showdown. It begins with Gemma finding M3GAN lurking in her living room, playing the creepiest rendition of "Toy Soldiers" imaginable. Things become violent quickly. The beatdown leads them into the office, where Gemma takes a hedge trimmer to M3GAN’s face, slices it open, and rips off half of her hair. But M3GAN gets the upper hand and begins to strangle Gemma. That’s when Cady shows up, triumphantly introducing their third family member: Gemma’s college robot, Bruce. Donning what looks like modern-day Power Gloves, Cady takes control of Bruce and rips M3GAN in half. M3GAN’s mangled upper torso launches one final attack, but her face is ripped off and a screwdriver is jammed into her hard drive.
While this is more of a sequence than a single moment, it works well and builds to a truly cheer-worthy climax. The verbal sparring between Gemma and M3GAN over what’s best for Cady is fantastic. M3GAN’s display of strength when she flips Gemma onto the kitchen table like a rag doll is not only well-choreographed, but also showcases just how powerful this little killer is. When she threatens to rip Gemma’s head off, we believe that she can, and that she will. The hedge trimmer feels like a fun nod to "Evil Dead." But, ultimately, it’s Bruce ripping M3GAN in half that’s the icing on this killer cake. It’s satisfying, tense, and thrilling all at once, and it helps the film stick the landing. Of course, the final frame teases that we have yet to see the last of M3GAN. If we’re lucky, this new horror icon will return to dance, sing, and kill again.