REVIEW: Octavia Spencer ignites, but can’t keep Ma aflame

The central problem with Ma isn’t the gore, violence or the unhinged nature of Octavia Spencer’s character. It’s the lack of reason.

We learn — through flashbacks — that SueAnn (Ma) had a troubled, traumatic childhood and was bullied mercilessly. Like many young kids, she fell victim to the whims of the popular kids in her school.

What isn’t clear, however, is what made Ma snap. What caused this veterinary assistant, after all these years, to snap? This is a central, poignant question the film barely bothers to answer.

That said, while Ma doesn’t scratch far beyond the surface of SueAnn’s psyche, it does give Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer a platform to be a special kind of wicked.

When she uses her basement as refuge for local high schoolers to party in, she does so under the guise of keeping them from drinking and driving or being unsafe. What these kids don’t realize is that sweet, old Ma may be more dangerous than anything in the outside world.

As the kids (led by Booksmart supporting star Diana Silvers and Girl Meets World’s Corey Fogelmanis) begin to realize something is off with Ma, they pull away. But this begins a swinging pendulum of events that sends the woman off the deep end.

It’s a twisted, brutal tale with enough humourous moments to bring some levity, but in the end we’re still left wondering why all the brutality was necessary.

Finally, we’re left with a finale (literally, the last two scenes) that makes no logical sense, and alienates the viewer. It’s mediocre — in every sense — and not what I’ve come to expect from producers Blumhouse, responsible for bringing us such smart horror films as Get Out and Happy Death Day.

If not for Octavia Spencer, who goes leaps and bounds into a Kathy Batesesque performance here, this movie would have sank. She, and she alone, is the reason to sit down with this one.

2.5/5 Stars


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