Updated: Jun 26, 2019
It’s virtually impossible to talk about this film’s plot without giving away major spoilers, and I ain’t gonna do that because that would ruin the movie. Let’s just say that the trailer doesn’t do the film justice and this is more than a dumb teen horror flick full of wisecracks and corny dialogue. No. Ma is a funny, intelligent, complex, twisty, layered experience that is full of interesting characters and absolutely terrifying situations. Go see it.
Maggie (Diana Silvers) and her mom Erica (Juliette Lewis) have experienced some “economic downturn” and are forced to move back to mom’s hometown. It is here that Erica struggles with her new job as a cocktail waitress and Maggie is the new kid in school. Both adapt pretty well because they’re good people and the film does an excellent job showing how close the two are to each other as well as how easy they both make new friends. This pays off in spades later. Maggie and her new group of pals are looking to party and they can’t find any adult to buy them liquor, until Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) comes along. She initially balks but then she changes her mind. We are given a few clues as to why and if you’re paying attention, you’ll see the “Why” coming from a mile away (this isn’t a bad thing, because the expert screenplay by Tate Taylor really peels away the layers and enriches the whole experience even if you do sort of figure out what’s going on). From there, Sue Ann, or “Ma” as the kids start to call her, weaves a terrifying spell of psychological and emotional manipulation over the core group of characters, reaching into and affecting their lives in ways you never really see coming. Ma manipulates modern fears and phobias, using social media and societal norms to make matters more personal. To say more would be to spoil but fair warning: buckle up tight, because the ride is not only fast and exhilarating, it is absolutely horrifying.
Think Misery. Think Prom Night. Think early 90’s Suspense Thrillers. Roll all this up in some fine performances by Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, and, really, the entire cast. Everyone hits a home run here (including Dominic Burgess as Stu, who nearly steals the movie with just a few lines of dialogue and that cat t-shirt at the end!). Special kudos to Spencer, who plays a character who could be quite hate-able but is actually quite understandable. In another film, she might be the hero, if the context was changed and the perspective was different. You fully understand why she’s doing what she’s doing, and you sort of root for her, until she goes off the rails. There is only one relationship that she has with one character (no spoilers, but you’ll understand when you see it) that is absolutely unforgivable and one of the main reasons why you will eventually turn against her even if you do enjoy some of the vengeance she doles out. Spencer gives an all-time performance as a misunderstood and bullied maniac, right up there with the best of them. Yes, I’m comparing her performance to Kathy Bates in Misery and Anthony Perkins in Psycho. She’s that good.
In short, Ma is a terrific little gem of a horror thriller and you should go see it before it disappears from the theaters. This is the kind of movie that fans of Horror should support with their dollars so that we can get more of them in the future.
3/4 Buckets of Blood
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews, he likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website www.kellymhudson.com