Well, hot damn! Now THIS is how you properly start off a year in horror movies!
Megan, directed by Gerard Johnstone and produced by James Wan, is a horror-comedy that works on both levels, filled with black humor and some truly fun action sequences.
Megan tells the story of a young career-driven woman named Gemma, who’s thrust into parenthood after her brother and sister-in-law are killed in a bizarre accident that leaves her niece orphaned. Gemma works in the toy business, and her secret groundbreaking project is an A.I. doll that’s fully communicative and able to foster realistic companionship with the child it’s “paired” with (much the same way your iPhone or household A.I. “pairs” with you and gets to know your various likes and dislikes). Gemma decides the prototype, named M3GAN, would be the ideal friend for her niece and also take some of the weight off Gemma’s shoulders when it comes to parenting. Needless to say, this doesn’t end well for Gemma.
I went in blind with this movie, no expectations whatsoever. Honestly, I assumed it was going to be a rip-off of the Child’s Play remake (which left a sour taste in my mouth, but we won’t get into that here). James Wan’s attachment to the project was the only reason I wanted to see Megan, since he tends to hit home runs with every movie he’s attached to, even–in my humble opinion–2021’s Malignant.
But Megan took me by surprise. It wasn’t nearly as gory as some other horror films with Wan’s name attached, nor was it particularly scary. It was just…fun; from the first frame to the last, I was sucked into the world of the movie and turned into a believer.
The gore effects, when present, worked incredibly well, mostly because Johnstone opted for minimalism rather than over-the-top carnage that leaves nothing to the imagination. There are some very dark moments throughout the movie, and these moments work well because they’re almost always punctuated by dark humor. Not just one-liners, either; the framing of the shots, the quiet moments between dialogue, and the idiosyncrasies of characters all lend themselves to full-on belly laughter.
Megan also works as an exploration of parenthood and responsibility to kin. As mentioned above, Gemma uses her A.I. prototype to avoid learning parent skills while also furthering her career by testing the humanoid companion on her niece. The film does a nice job of asking whether or not Gemma’s intentions were pure in the first place or if she’s simply manipulating her niece’s need for companionship for her own ends.
Also, I would be remiss not to point out how well the sinister A.I. doll M3GAN is played by the young actresses Amie Donald and Jenna Davis. The physicality, the voice, the subtle changes in the doll’s tone and demeanor…it all worked extremely well when it might’ve otherwise failed with lesser actresses. My favorite part happens about two-thirds of the way through the movie, and it involves an old school paper cutter blade and a fantastic dance sequence. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it, and I’d be very surprised if you’re not as happy with the scene as I was.
Overall, Megan is a great comedy-horror film that’s sure to please anyone looking for something fresh to start their 2023 theatrical experience. You won’t be particularly frightened, but you won’t leave the theater disappointed, either.