Review by J.T. Johnson
Normally, a psychological horror film depends mostly on the power of the actor or actress playing the psycho. In “Ma”, that psycho is played by Octavia Spencer, so that gave me a lot of hope for the film seeing as she is one of the best actors working today. It’s also from the studio Blumhouse Productions, a studio that has become known for making low-budget yet highly effective horror films such as “Get Out”, “Happy Death Day” and “Split”.
Unfortunately, beyond Spencer’s decent performance, the rest of the scripts fails. The movie follows Maggie (Diana Silvers), a young teenager who has moved back to her mother Erica’s (Juliette Lewis) hometown in Ohio. She eventually befriends a group of fellow teenagers that want to get an adult to buy some booze.
They eventually hook in Sue Ann to get the booze. She then manipulates events to lure the kids back to her house where she sets up her basement to be a new hangout for the high school kids. The problem is that Sue Ann, who the kids call Ma, has a terrible past that will come back to haunt all of them.
The performances are good all around, but the film’s premise never fully comes together. It takes forever for the film to reveal Ma’s origins even though you’ll be able to figure it out pretty quickly. Yes, Ma has a personal reason to torture these kids, but the film is so boring that you just don’t care by the end of it.
For over an hour, the film doesn’t even bother to have an unsettling tone or scares and when it does actually try to show how disturbing Ma can be, it’s laughable at best. The last 15 minutes of the film is where things do pick up and if the rest of the film had been like the final few scenes, it could have been a worthwhile film. This is also one of those films where no characters make any logical choices, including going to Ma’s house in the first place.
It would be one thing if Ma acted cool the first time they came over to her house. Yet, even then she pulls out a gun and makes one of the kids strip down completely. She then tries to play it off as a prank and these idiots buy into it. Don’t get me wrong, I know teenagers can be quite dumb at times, but even when I was a teenager, I would have left and never come back had someone pulled a gun on me.
My last problem is that when we’re following the idiot teenagers, we’re usually not with Ma. I honestly felt that even though she was the star of the film, we barely got to see much of Ma by the end of it. Again, had they gotten to her hatching her master plans way before the last 15 minutes of the film, things might have turned out differently and Spencer might have been able to save this film with her performance alone.
Despite a decent performance from Spencer and the rest of the cast, the script completely fails the movie here. While Blumhouse has made some pretty damn good horror films over the past few years, “Ma” turns out to be one house party you can skip and is one of the worst films that I’ve seen so far this year.