Octavia Spencer reunited with her Get On Up and The Help director Tate Taylor in Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions’ horror thriller Ma. After a heartbreaking divorce, a single mom moves back to her hometown with her daughter Maggie (Diana Silvers). Maggie quickly making friends with the local bad girl Haley (McKaley Miller) and finds a new love interest, Andy (Corey Fogelmanis). After failed attempts at buying booze, Maggie’s friends convince her to approach a lonely veterinarian, Sue Ann Ellington (Olivia Spencer). Despite some hesitation, Sue Ann agrees to buy the kids booze. Eventually, Sue Ann invites the kids to her home to drink as long as they follow three rules: no cussing, no going upstairs, and no driving after drinking. Over time, the teens give Sue Ann the nickname Ma. Eventually, the kids become weary of Ma when she develops an obsessive fixation with the teens.
Scotty Landes, who had a background in television, made an impressive debut with Ma as his first feature. One of the things I enjoyed about Landes’ script is the pacing and the slow reveal of Sue Ann’s nature and motives. The trailers for Ma bill it as a horror. Forty-five minutes into the film, I began to realize the film could have also succeeded as a drama. While I generally enjoyed Ma, I would have liked to see Sue Ann’s psychosis explored a bit more. I hope that Ma is a success and we get a prequel that further explores Sue Ann’s mental state.
Spencer, who is usually a scene-stealer with her supporting work, shines in her first lead role. Displaying a bevy of emotions ranging from joyful and sad to downright menacing, Spencer’s Ma is one of the best female horror villains in recent memory. Often in horror movies, I want to root against the antagonist, however, I found myself cheering on Ma.
The supporting cast of teens follow the standard horror tripe with their acting. Of the teens, I found Diana Silvers’ performance the strongest. Silvers portrays the final girl character trope with ease and it is hard to believe this is her second role. The teens’ parents include Juliette Lewis, as Maggie’s mom and Luke Evans as Andy’s dad, in their brief roles, Lewis and Evans are enjoyable. Lewis portrays a mom who wants her daughter to avoid the mistakes that she did, while Luke Evans portrays a stern father who would rather discipline his son than spend time with him. Allison Janney is also enjoyable in a brief role as Sue Ann’s boss.
While the trailer does spoil one of the key plot points and the average moviegoer will figure out one of the film’s twists, Octavia Spencer’s performance more than made up for the spoiler. I do recommend seeing Ma. I must advise that this is not a traditional horror film. In fact, Ma does not make a kill in the film until about an hour into the running time. If you stick with the film, the payoff is worth the slow pace. Instead of being a straightforward slasher film, Ma is more of a cautionary tale of bullying and talking to strangers. With a great villainous turn by the immensely talented Octavia Spencer; Ma is worth a trip to the theater.
Ma is in theaters now.
Final Grade: B