Ma is a new horror-thriller film written by Scotty Landes (Workaholics) and re-teaming the director and actress pairing of Tate Taylor and Octavia Spencer (The Help). In the movie, Spencer stars as a lonely middle-aged woman who befriends a group of teenagers and allows them to party in her basement, although the teens soon discover that she may not have altruistic intentions.
It is extremely difficult to nail down exactly what this film is and even more difficult to say what it wants to be. The main issue with this is that the movie is horribly inconsistent with its tone. The whole audience was laughing throughout because of how ridiculous and over-the-top some parts of the film are. That being said, it isn’t ever clear whether or not the movie as a whole is meant to be funny.
This film’s story is absolutely crazy, but not in a good way. You will almost certainly be questioning whether or not you are watching a real movie or something that was designed expressly to test your sanity. Although it is best to leave the story unspoiled, it is centered around a concept so odd that it will be nearly impossible to take it seriously.
The pacing of the movie is similarly uneven. As is the case with many thrillers, the first hour or so is a slow burn and the last thirty minutes feel extremely rushed. That being said, this film is more entertaining as a whole than most similarly paced movies because of the laughably bad moments that are sprinkled throughout.
Also disappointing is the film’s character development. All of the characters are very flat and archetypal, and the movie does next to nothing to develop the relationships between them. The eponymous antagonist is obviously meant to come across as a caricature, but it is frustrating that the protagonist and all of her friends do as well. The protagonist, in particular, does some things that feel out-of-character in many instances.
However, the film does show its classic horror roots in that it feels almost like a parable. The movie has something to say about teen partying, teen sex, and bullying, and it does so in a way that is approachable, if a bit obvious and unrealistic. Unfortunately, the film is unlikely to have any lasting impact on the audience because of its goofy nature.
The acting in the movie is pretty solid, matching the over-the-top nature of the story. Spencer is very fun to watch as the villain of a horror movie, definitely playing outside of her normal type, so she makes the film worth watching by herself. Diana Silvers (Booksmart) plays the protagonist, and even though her performance in this movie doesn’t reach the same heights, she is solid as the “scream queen” of the film.
On a technical level, the movie was mostly solid given its relatively low budget. The production design is mostly impressive, especially the set of the antagonist’s house. The soundtrack complements the old-school feel of the film well. There are also some solid effects used in the finale of the movie, although they aren’t really used to their full extent.
Overall, Ma was a perplexing movie. It is mostly enjoyable because of how much campy fun it provides, but whether or not that campiness was intentional is questionable. Regardless, the typical horror audience will likely be entertained by the film’s campiness and shock factor.
Ma is now playing in theaters.