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Megan Review, Part 1

An AI doll that does more than just play.

Since it’s nearing Halloween, I figured now would be a good time to review some Sci-Fi movies that dabble in the horror genre. Megan came out in 2022 and has been referred to as Chucky for Zoomers. The premise is the same as the horror movie, Child’s Play, from 1988: a child gets a doll. Doll turns psychotic and kills people. It’s pretty straightforward. However, Megan differs by adding a technological twist, calling back to the creepy Furbies, which came out in 1998. Really, those awful toys should’ve had a horror movie of their own. There are many a tale of the mechanical monsters waking up under the bed in the dead of night six months after the poor child who bought the thing had forgotten about them. And you didn’t dare check to see if the batteries were still in the creature. No sir.

The movie is more than aware of this comparison. It starts with a commercial advertising a parody of the Furby, which the film uses as the groundwork for what will eventually become Megan. I enjoyed these fake commercials. They added a degree of satire to the film and let you know the writers don’t intend to take the movie too seriously, which is part of what makes a campy horror film fun.

Cady receives this knock-off of a toy from her Aunt Gemma and is playing with it while her parents are trying to reach the top of a mountain for a skiing trip. However, a blizzard comes while they are driving, and the parents are killed in a car accident. They tried to play this scene off as a jump scare, and this is one of the things that annoys me about horror films in general. No matter how campy the film, a jump scare has to work; otherwise, it risks pulling the viewer out of the scene, leaving them feeling more aggravated than scared.

In this case, the viewer knows that the parents are killed, but Cady has to survive in order for the story to continue, so personally, I felt more depressed than frightened by the scene. A child losing his or her parents is a very heavy topic to open a campy slasher film, so there are times that it’s hard to know how to feel about what going on. These types of deaths at the beginning of a horror story only really work if the character is unlikable and the victim is receiving a dark and ironic sort of justice. Otherwise, the story turns more into an action film rather than a typical slasher flick, and the viewer is left rooting for the character who is about to be killed rather than the slasher delivering some kind of indirect payback. You’re supposed to root for the protagonist, but only towards the end when there are only a handful of survivors left. Then the main character is revealed and defeats the villain. . . maybe. When it comes to slasher films, sometimes the protagonist lives, and sometimes, they don’t. That’s what makes the story scary.

Back to Traditional Horror Tropes

The film does eventually return to the traditional horror tropes. But I have to say that movie was very jarring at the beginning because it starts out with these humorous commercials for a Furby knock-off then jumps to the tragic death of a little girl’s parents. I didn’t feel like the transition worked.

Cady goes to live with her Aunt Gemma after her parents are killed. Gemma works for the company that produces the Furby knock-off, and she has been tasked with creating a cheaper version of the toy to remain competitive; however, Gemma is behind on this project because she is working on something else: Megan. Her philosophy is that in order to remain competitive in the market, the company must stay ahead of everyone else by creating more technologically advanced toys. The first demonstration of Megan fails because one of her technicians forgets to add one of the chips needed in order for it to work. However, Gemma remains determined to make her creation a success, so she takes the project to her house. But once she receives news of Cady, her life is put on hold.

Cady and Gemma have a hard time hitting it off, and the social worker is skeptical about Gemma’s ability to be an adequate parent. But finally, after a rough transition, the two bond over an old robot Gemma created called Bruce. Cady says that if she had a robot like Bruce, she’d never need another toy, and this gives Gemma a marketing angle for Megan which she can provide her boss, David. She returns to her work on Megan, and puts together a second demonstration for the toy, using Cady as the test subject. The demonstration is a success and David green lights the production of Megan if she can complete another demonstration for the Board. This means that Megan must remain with Cady so the toy can improve its ability to entertain the child.

A Surrogate Parent

The subtle problem becomes quickly apparent since Gemma doesn’t program the robot just to be a source of amusement. Megan also becomes the child’s surrogate parent. This includes instructing Cady and reading her stories. Megan is also given a motherly desire to protect the child. This last trait sounds like a logical way to show how the robot becomes violent, but there are some potential inconsistencies in the plot that might call Megan’s third characteristic into question. However, despite the subtle hints of future problems, things appear to be going smoothly enough, until one day when a nosey neighbor who has a violent dog fails to keep her pet properly contained.

There is a hole in the neighbor’s fence. Cady is playing outside, shooting a fake bow and arrow. She loses one of the arrows, but Megan quickly finds it. The arrow is by the hole, so when the robot goes to retrieve it, the dog lunges for the robot and pulls it into the neighbor’s yard. Cady tries to save the robot and is successful, but she is bitten in the process. Here is where the trouble really starts, but it’s unclear why.

The movie might be playing with two different angles — keeping things intentionally ambiguous — but it’s hard to say. The first angle is that the robot’s overprotective nature kicks in after Cady is bitten. But when it comes to the second option, all the viewer sees is a spark that ignites around the robot’s neck. This could imply that some fail-safe has been damaged, or the spark could be just for effect. It’s unclear, but the answer to this question has large implications for the consistency of the story. We’ll cover what happens next in the following review.

Gary Varner

Gary Varner is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture in Seattle, Washington. He is a Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiast with a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts, and he spends his time working with his fellows at Discovery Institute and raising his daughter who he suspects will one day be president of the United States. For more reviews as well as serial novels, go to www.garypaulvarner.com to read more.

Megan Review, Part 1