Ma – 2019

Director Tate Taylor
Screenplay Scotty Landes, Tate Taylor
Starring Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, Diana Silvers, McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, Luke Evans, Missi Pyle, Allison Janney

Ma is a warning to all of those assholes in High School who are more interested in messing with people than being inclusive. It’s a poster child for victimhood creating crazed monsters in their 40’s, or right around the time the assholes are out of their first marriage and their kids are all together in the same High School. Is it believable? Maybe not. Either way, lets hope is scares the crap out of the young teenagers for whom it is targeted.

Octavia Spencer is the titular Sue Ellen “Ma” Ellington. She’s walking a three legged dog outside her veterinary clinic when Maggie (Silvers) asks if she can buy them booze so they can go out and drink it at the old small town hang out. She does, but then she arranges for the police to go out and give the kids a scare. The next time she buys them alcohol, she offers for them to drink it at her place, in the basement, so she can be sure they “get home safe.”

This starts to become a thing, as she begins to harangue them on their varying forms of social media to come out. Then things start to go missing. That’s before things really get weird.

Along the way we see flashbacks with Sue Ann and the parents of some of the children when they were in school. Sue Ann has a crush on Ben (Evans), who is the star QB of the school team. He’s also an asshole and plays a nasty trick on her.

Back to present day, we see the kids attempt to unravel the web within which they’re increasingly trapped. The parents, including Maggie’s mother Erica (Lewis) are only aware as things are starting to wend out of control. Then of course, some of the dumber kids, including Ben’s son Andy (Foglemmanis) don’t get the memo that Ma’s place isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

The film spends the first two acts in a build up, then just completely blows up in the third. Spencer clearly relishes her lead role, even if she’s a maniac in the making. The problem is, once the bodies start dropping, there is no rhyme or reason for the reactions of the seemingly rational people to the obvious danger to which their children are exposed.

All of this works well if one takes the actions of Sue Ellen as a mad dash over the edge. Given that she has a child of her own, it seems even more unlikely. There are no real bad performances, but the editing in the third act is enough to turn this horror into a comedy, however unintentionally.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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