M3GAN reviews: Why critics are falling for the AI horror

M3GAN, 2023’s newest horror sci-fi to release in cinemas, has shattered box office expectations and received widespread critical acclaim.

The thriller stars Get Out’s Allison Williams as genius roboticist Gemma who becomes the unexpected caretaker of her eight-year-old niece. When Gemma gives her niece a prototype of her new AI doll, M3GAN, the results are nightmarish.

Since its theatrical release over the weekend (6 January), the film has garnered a critics score of 94 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing.

While horror films are notorious for failing to impress critics, M3GAN seems to have subverted the genre’s typical pitfalls.

So, what exactly is it that some of the top critics are loving about the movie?

“It’s incisive, sardonic and totally mean-spirited,” The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey writes in her four-star review. “Picture the Mean Girls queen bee Regina George if someone had given her a knife and a death wish. And she was an android.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw similarly praises it for being a “cheekily enjoyable chiller” and “an entertainingly nasty film for the new year”.

M3GAN as M3GAN in ‘M3GAN' (Universal Pictures)
M3GAN as M3GAN in ‘M3GAN' (Universal Pictures)

M3GAN almost feels like it could be a cult film, the sort of thriller that generates a small but devoted following and maybe a sequel or two,” argues Variety’s Owen Gleiberman. “You don’t have to take the movie seriously to enjoy it as a high-kitsch cautionary tale.”

In Alison Willmore’s Vulture review, she addresses how the film’s viral trailer and its lifesize robot’s “memeable dance” were large contributors to its success.

“But it’s Allison Williams who makes the movie watchable beyond the stuff of a few GIF-able clips,” she says, adding that “[M3GAN] wants only to provide a diverting 100-odd minutes of horror comedy, with a heavy emphasis on the comedy”.

According to The New York Timess Jason Zinoman, M3GAN has both “a good monster and a sense of humour”, which he finds “makes up for a slow start, some absurd dialogue (’You didn’t code in parental controls?’) and a by-the-book conclusion”.

And, although he “would have preferred a handful more guilty guffaws”, Zinoman concedes that “the tone here sticks to just enough camp to keep the crowd smirking”.

M3GAN deftly threads the needle in terms of serving as a warning and still delivering the requisite tension and horror within its modest means and the confines of a PG-13 rating, all in a generally crowd-pleasing fashion,” writes CNN’s Brian Lowry.

It seems that while the film falls in the horror genre, its success lies in its ability to strike “an entertaining balance between comedy and carnage in the kills”, as The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney describes.

M3GAN is out in cinemas now.