Ma *1/2

There’s not much suspense, the story is predictable, and the characters act illogically. It’s the triple whammy of awful horror movies. 

Is it worth $10? No

“Ma,” the latest from the horror aficionados at Blumhouse Productions (“Get Out”), is part psychological thriller, part horror, and part mess. It’s full of convenience, contrivance, and predictability, with nary a moment of tension throughout. This studio has set the bar high for its releases, and this film is not up to its standards.

It has an interesting premise, but one senses writer Scotty Landes and director Tate Taylor weren’t sure how it should play out. Maggie (Diana Silvers), the new teenager in town, befriends cool kids Haley (McKaley Miller), Andy (Corey Fogelmanis), Chaz (Gianni Paolo) and Darrell (Dante Brown). They like her, she likes them, it works. Outside a liquor store they find a passerby named Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) to purchase them alcohol. All good – Sue Ann doesn’t even keep the change.

The second time Sue Ann helps, she invites them to party in her basement. Everyone has a great time, and they start affectionately calling her “Ma.” Then she becomes obsessed with them, and for a long time you’ll wonder why she’s doing it. When her reasons are revealed, they’re weak. More character development is needed for the audience to believe she would do all that she does; as is, the punishment does not fit the crime.  

Movies ostensibly based in reality that defy logic are infuriating. For example, the teenagers park their van in front of the entrance to the liquor store. The intention is so they can react with one-liners when one of their friends fails to get an adult to buy booze. For as dumb as teenagers are to try to buy alcohol, I’d bet a six-pack that none are so stupid they’d park in front of the store when trying to make it happen.

This may not seem significant, but details matter. Part of the appeal of “Ma” is its reality. This could’ve been us, we think, or this could be our kids. The more we relate to what’s happening the more emotionally invested we become, which allows for greater impact. When an early, trivial scene breaks this reality, it’s hard for a mediocre movie such as this to recover.


“Okay, but that’s just one scene!” you’re thinking. Consider: On at least two occasions, Ma randomly shows up at school when all five principal cast members are together, which allows everyone to get her message at once. Convenient. During the climax, a heroine goes upstairs for help, which is always a no-no in these movies. Dumb characters trafficking in convenience is not my idea of a good time.

Just last year, Allison Janney won a supporting actress Oscar for “I, Tonya.” She appears in “Ma” as Dr. Brooks, a veterinarian and Sue Ann’s boss. She has only a few quick scenes, none of which have an impact on the film. Clearly, the character is superfluous and beneath her. Why Janney would accept this thankless role is beyond me; my only guess is that she did it as a favor for Taylor, who directed her in “The Help” (2011).

You’ll may recall Spencer won a supporting actress Oscar for her performance in “The Help.” No such awards are coming for “Ma.”

Did you know?
Since “The Help,” Taylor directed the James Brown biopic “Get On Up” (2014) and “The Girl On The Train” (2016).

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