The Best Campy Horror Movies to Watch After M3GAN

M3GAN is the moment after that amazing opening weekend! And if you enjoyed the killer doll's antics, we have some other cult classics to recommend you.

Orphan and Leprechaun 4 are campy horror movies like M3GAN
Photo: WB / Universal / Trimark Pictures

Seemingly out of nowhere, M3GAN looks like it might be the next big franchise in horror. The film has received rave reviews and broke through on TikTok before it was even released. The film’s ending hints at a sequel, and with the film raking in $30.2 million in its opening weekend (amid Avatar: The Way of Water’s box office dominance, no less), it looks likely that M3GAN will be here to stay.

The movie’s viral dance scene speaks to its campier elements, which have made M3GAN both an internet sensation and an unlikely queer icon. Here are 10 more campy horror movies to watch if you’re still riding high on the M3GAN hype train.

fight scene with fire in Freddy vs Jason

Freddy vs Jason (2003)

Ronnie Yu’s supremely stupid Freddy vs. Jason from 2003 is way more entertaining than it has any right to be. Pitting Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees against each other in a horror icon battle for the ages via an inane, inexplicable plot, the movie is far (FAR) from a horror masterpiece. But if the irreverent humor in M3GAN appealed to you, there’s a good chance you’ll have a good time watching Freddy vs Jason with a group of good-humored friends.

The movie actually captures the essences of Freddy and Jason pretty well, with Robert Englund uttering some of the most outlandish lines Freddy has ever said onscreen (his “how sweet…dark meat” quip sounds particularly insane if problematic 20 years later). Yu delves into Jason’s past in a way that’s somewhat interesting, but it’s all a means to an end: the final showdown at Camp Crystal Lake is delightfully cartoonish and violent, and the annoying teenagers we spend time with throughout the movie get butchered in satisfying fashion. This movie is a ton of dumb fun—just consider setting your expectations low.

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Killer doll in Dolly Dearest

Dolly Dearest (1991)

It’s safe to say M3GAN is one of the creepiest-looking haunted dolls we’ve ever seen on the big screen, but there’s one other forgotten killer doll from movies’ past that just might have M3GAN and every other haunted doll beat in that regard. Dolly Dearest centers on a porcelain doll inhabited by a demonic spirit unleashed in Mexico near, wouldn’t you know it, a “Dolly Dearest” doll factory. The movie is typical fare for the subgenre in broad strokes, but the look of the possessed doll, particularly late in the movie, is truly the stuff of nightmares.

Dolly Dearest’s character design sits in the uncanny valley, much like M3GAN’s does, but as she gets more menacing in the final act, her face scrunches and contorts nightmarishly to the point where it’s hard to unsee it.

Killer little girl in Orphan (2009)

Orphan (2009) / Orphan: First Kill (2022)

Adding new members to a family, no matter how harmless and innocent they may seem, can be a complicated, scary proposition. 2009’s Orphan exploits these fears in chilling fashion, following the Colemans, a couple who’ve lost their baby and later decide to adopt a girl named Esther from an orphanage. While their deaf daughter seems to like Esther quite a lot, their son senses there’s something seriously off about her, and his suspicions turn out to be warranted when her true history is revealed. Based on a true story, the movie is notorious for its twist, which reveals Esther to be evil in a way the family never saw coming.

Orphan is a fantastic piece of psychological horror and shares similarities with M3GAN, but its prequel, last year’s Orphan: First Kill, is even closer in tone, mixing campy material with serious scares. All three films offer their own twists (wink wink) on the domestic interloper formula, and in that way, they complement each other well.

Chucky in original Child's Play

Child’s Play (1988)

Child’s Play is the quintessential haunted doll movie, with its influence being felt in virtually every movie in the subgenre that followed. The story follows a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray, whose soul is transferred to a doll named Chucky via voodoo ritual. As Chucky begins killing hapless victims, his young owner Andy and the boy’s mom Karen uncover the truth about the possessed doll but struggle to get anyone to believe their supernatural claim.

Directed by Tom Holland, the film became a phenomenon in the late ‘80s due to its unique take on the genre, blending crass humor and horror tropes in a way that was oddly entertaining. While M3GAN’s commentary on A.I. is far more applicable to the real world than Child’s Play’s supernatural story, trash-talking Chucky still managed to genuinely terrify children across the country when the franchise rose to popularity in the ‘90s.

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Monster in Leprechaun 4

Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996)

There’s something punk rock about Leprechaun 4: In Space. It just doesn’t give a fuck. The Leprechaun series was already known to be campy to the core, following a grotesque lil’ leprechaun as he murders folks left and right, desperate to find precious gold. Just when it seemed like the series couldn’t get any crazier (Leprechaun 3 saw the titular monster terrorize Las Vegas, blowing a poor woman to pieces by inflating her, um, assets…), Leprechaun 4 takes the insanity to another level, logic and reason out the window to tell an intergalactic tale of space marines, princesses, and mad scientists. 

The movie was the first in the series to go straight to video, and it’s clear to see why. It’s so, so bad in so, so many ways. But there’s also something fun about the fact that the filmmakers understood that the series needed to go completely bonkers to have any chance of topping the previous three movies. Was the film well-received? No. But it’s not trying to impress anyone. It’s camp incarnate, with some of the cheesiest dialogue and deaths you’ll ever see and a premise that is so utterly stupid it’s ingenious.

trolls in Troll 2

Troll 2 (1990)

Troll 2 has a long reputation of being one of the most sublime examples of a so-bad-it’s-good movie there is. The 2009 documentary Best Worst Movie delves into the the making of the film, and its unlikely cult following incredibly well. But in a nutshell, the film is a mind-numbingly inconsistent, messy, poorly acted, shoddily filmed wreck that somehow winds up being outrageously entertaining from front to back, given you go into it with the right attitude.

Aside from the movie being campy as all hell (it goes well beyond camp, in fact), watching it after seeing M3GAN serves the purpose of highlighting just how well made the latter actually is. Cinematography, sound, and editing are often undervalued with regards to genre films, and M3GAN deserves its flowers for being as polished as it is freaky and fun. Both M3GAN and Troll 2 are entertaining in a campy, absurdist way, but if you look at their respective production values side by side, it makes it easier to recognize just how slick M3GAN is from a cinematic perspective.

Ash in Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II (1987)

Sam Raimi went full camp with Evil Dead II, the sequel/remake of its equally iconic predecessor. If you went out to see M3GAN in theaters, you’ve most likely seen Evil Dead II countless times before. But what makes it a fun pairing with M3GAN is that both movies feature hilarious, unnerving, show-stealing dance sequences. M3GAN’s hallway death dance has been taking TikTok by storm, and its random but oh-so-perfect placement in the film harkens back to Deadite Linda’s twisted forest ballet for Ash in Evil Dead II.

In the unlikely event that you have seen M3GAN but have never seen Evil Dead II, please go out of your way to watch what many horror fans consider to be one of the best entries in the comedy-horror subgenre. Bruce Campbell’s Ash is one of the few examples in horror of a hero who’s more compelling than any of the villains in the film. Raimi’s flare and tenacity as a filmmaker is on full display here, and the film continues to inspire horror filmmakers to this day.

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evil doll in Annabelle: Creation

Annabelle: Creation (2017)

This might be an obvious choice, but it’s an unavoidable one all the same. James Wan, who brought us the Conjuring universe and its haunted doll spinoff Annabelle, describes M3GAN, which he co-wrote with Aleka Cooper, as “Annabelle meets The Terminator,” which makes the Annabelle movies a natural pairing with M3GAN. M3GAN is a more animated, modern take on the subgenre and strikes a completely different tone, but the core concept of an ostensibly innocuous doll slowly, suspensfully revealing itself to be a murderous monster remains the foundation of the story.

Parallels with M3GAN aside, it’s worth noting that Annabelle: Creation is fun to revisit on its own merits. It’s much improved over its predecessor, which was a decently made horror grab-bag but fell apart due to an eye-rolling story. Set in 1943, Creation follows a nun and six orphan girls who seek refuge in the home of a doll-maker and his wife. The hosts tell the girls that their dead daughter’s room is off limits. Predictably, the girls find an old porcelain doll and unleash a demonic power that terrorizes them all. It’s a great house-of-horrors flick with some sweet scares (the motorized chair lift scene is wonderful) and underrated set design, with the ridiculously dark and shadowy house signaling that a jump scare could happen seemingly at any moment.

Evil Puppet in The Puppet Master

The Puppet Master (1989)

André Toulon plays a puppeteer who brings his dolls to life via Egyptian magic in The Puppet Master, a semi-forgotten cult classic that launched a long-running franchise. Throughout the movie, the possessed puppets terrorize a group of psychics, and the ensuing massacre is a bizarre, blood-soaked romp that definitely warrants revisiting. 

Sentient doll movies are best when the dolls in question are charismatic in their own way, and while the puppets in The Puppet Master aren’t verbose like M3GAN and Chucky, they’re definitely full of personality. There’s Pinhead, Blade, Jester, Ms. Leech, and Tunneler, and each one is terrifying in their own way. The special effects team did a great job on this one, making the wonderfully designed puppets come to life in a compelling way during the pre-CGI days.

Pin (1988)

Pin (1988)

1988’s Pin follows a disturbed man named Leon who becomes obsessed with the titular medical doll. As people who try to meddle in Leon and Pin’s “relationship” start dying in gruesome fashion, those around Leon begin to question whether he’s doing the killing or the doll is. 

The plot is as ridiculous as it sounds, but the idea of people becoming emotionally attached to dolls actually makes Pin more thematically aligned with M3GAN than perhaps any other movie on this list. David Hewlett is fantastic as Leon, and director Sandor Stern, who penned The Amityville Horror, takes the somewhat silly story seriously enough to give the movie a real sense of atmosphere and psychological dread.

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