Relocating back to her mother’s sleepy home town, teenager Maggie (Diana Silver) tries to fit in at school. Adopted by outspoken Haley (McKaley Miller), Maggie is brought into her group of friends who mainly drive around looking for underage booze and parties. Entreating any adults who might buy them alcohol at the local liquor store, they meet Sue Anne (aka ‘Ma’) as played by Octavia Spencer. Taking pity on the teenagers, she takes their money and brings them back a box of booze. Concerned that they might end up drink driving, she offers them the use of her basement as safe space in which to party. However all things are not what they seem…
… delivers a surprisingly effective remix with plenty of star wattage to spare.
Blumhouse’s latest horror offering ‘Ma’ finds itself in reverential mood. Paying homage to such classics of the genre such as ‘Carrie’, ‘Misery’, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and more recently Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’, Director Tate Taylor delivers a surprisingly effective remix with plenty of star wattage to spare. With Juliette Lewis as Maggie’s mom, Luke Evans as Ben and a much underused Allison Janney as Ma’s veterinarian boss, you quickly realise that this is not going to be just another derivative horror flick.
Mercifully eschewing many of the current, laboured tropes, ‘Ma’s’ terror is much more rooted in the way its characters are drawn. None more so is this the case than with Ma herself as played by executive producer and star, Octavia Spencer. Always a class act, her Sue Anne allows Spencer to pivot an unspoken fury beneath her comedic sass. Steadily ramping up the creepiness of her character throughout the movie, hers is the performance that really sells the show.
Similar to newer classics like ‘Us’ and ‘Get Out’, ‘Ma’ becomes another movie intent on dragging you into spiralling discomfort as grim realisation dawns. Never one to step away from body horror, Blumhouse’s latest sadly falls short of greatness by sacrificing tension for clarity. With an unnecessary dependency on flashbacks to substantiate ‘Ma’s’ motives, any mystery (and potential sympathy for her character) is discarded as we plunge into the red stuff of the act three.
Seemingly in a rush by the time the grand guignol arrives, ‘Ma’s’ finale sadly truncates a very fine build-up by borrowing its ending from the ‘Halloween’ movies. That said, whilst its lacks the accelerating finesse of the aforementioned horror classics, ‘Ma’ is a nonetheless welcome addition to Dr. Calagari’s ongoing cabinet of cinematic abductions. A pied-piper who plies a seductive cocktail of banging tunes and accessible alcohol, ‘Ma’, like the movie, understands the key to terror lies in unlocking the characters on display.
As she says herself in the movie, “Don’t let Ma party on her own.”