Film Review – Ma (2019)

Octavia Spencer as Sue Ann in Ma, directed by Tate Taylor.

Picture the setting: in a swanky office in LA or New York, the brilliant, sublime Octavia Spencer sat down with the agent and wondered what she hadn’t done. She’d played a friend of a mute woman who fell for a merman, a mathematician who helped NASA send people to the moon, voiced a Disney character and everything in between. “You wouldn’t be interested in playing a dark, disturbing and vengeful veterinary assistant would you Octavia?” Oh yes, she would.

Spencer plays Sue Ann, a lonely middle-aged woman who is coerced by a group of local high-schoolers into buying them alcohol. She obliges once, twice, thrice until she invites them over to her house to party in her rarely-used basement, joining in the under-age shenanigans with gusto, recapturing her youth for a brief moment. Soon, however, she becomes more and more fascinated with the teens and their lives so much that they soon begin to suspect the newly-monikered “Ma” may have overstepped her mark.

To reveal anymore would be to rob all of you of the sheer insanity, sheer madness of Ma which, if you go in without any real knowledge of the film, is the best way to watch this one for it is a crazy trip. And it works – just – thanks to Spencer who dives head first into the rabbit hole of Scotty Landes’ script and devours it with relish. Indeed, this isn’t just a story of horror and thrills, but the backstory of a woman who has been bullied and bruised in the most heinous and cowardly ways possible, and with Spencer’s unflappable tenacity as an actor you really feel her struggles even if the endgame isn’t quite as explosive as some of the things going on around them.

Granted, the narrative is absolutely preposterous and full of plot-holes and ridiculous choices that no sane person would make, coupled with a similarly scatterbrained approach to the material from director Tate Taylor (he of The Help fame) which tries to borrow from Hitchcock, de Palma and more but never quite nails down their rhythms. There’s some decent shocks, true, but it never quite fixes on just what kind of thriller/horror it’s trying to be.

Ma won’t stay with you for long after the credits roll but go with the flow and embrace its lunacy, there’s a fun time to be had – there’s shocks a-plenty, many moments of tension and more laughs than Holmes & Watson. Just like everything thing else.

Scott J.Davis |

Horror, Thriller | USA, 2019 | 15 | 31st May 2019 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir.Tate Taylor | Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, Luke Evans, Missi Pyle, Allison Janney

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