From the trailers of horror-come-thriller film Ma you might be expecting a certain kind of film, however, you should be prepared to disregard all of your expectations, because this film is one that is going to shock you, in either a way that will leave you fuming or amazed. It really is a marmite film, much like many recent horrors have seemed to be, by splitting the audience down the middle which results in a film that has people giving reviews from one star to five. But what is it about Ma that creates such a division in taste?
Ma comes from director Tate Taylor, known for his films The Help and The Girl On The Train, and follows a group of young teenage friends as they embark on every pubescent adult’s biggest adventure; acquiring and consuming alcohol when underage. Whilst trying to complete their mission they meet Sue-Anne, a friendly, lonely, and a little strange at times, lady who kindly helps them to buy the booze. After a few encounters she invites them to party in her basement, and soon the entire high school have found the coolest new place to hang out. There might be a few rules set by Sue-Anne, who quickly gains to nickname Ma, but they seem reasonable in return for a fun place to hang and pizza rolls. However, it’s not long until Ma becomes a little too involved with the teens, and it seems as though her loneliness is spiralling into an aggressive obsession which is fuelled by something more than just her want for company.
In most movies, especially horror films, it’s easy to see within the first half of the film just exactly what path it’s heading on, but that cannot be said for Ma. The audience is given next to nothing in the first half the film, constantly questioning when and if the horror is ever going to brace the screen for us. Instead of something horrific we are given consistent belly laughs that really do create this bizarre atmosphere that is hard to read and understand. This might be one of the reasons that many people have claimed the film doesn’t sit right, because it really doesn’t, yet if you enjoy this campy teen feeling laced with a slight confusion then you’re going to feel truly rewarded once the horror does finally quick in.
It feels that Ma is made for a younger audience, and with a 15 certificate it might just be the case, yet there’s a lot to identify with throughout the movie. The characters are typical in their own tropes, yet if you’ve been an awkward teen yourself then you’ll quickly find yourself reminiscing in memories of a similar vein. Diana Silvers plays protagonist Maggie, who is dorky and weird, just like her group of friends. Many cinema goers have had problems with the decisions that the teenagers make, questioning their actions, however, as someone who has been a lame teenager, I can completely understand why they make many of the decisions they do.
Then we have Sue-Anne aka Ma, who is played by the incredible Octavia Spencer. It seemed a little strange at first having Spencer attached as the psycho main character, yet once you see her in this role, it is certain that she was born to star as a character such as this one. Initially, she comes across as a friendly and sweet lady, who is more than happy to help some teens out but as the plot progresses we start to see a more sinister side to Ma, something caused by a deep-rooted trauma. Once we become privy to her own personal teenage years, it’s hard not to root for Ma, but at the same time, we are conflicted with this feeling as we understand the danger the young and dumb teens are in. This emotional battle with ourselves is a conflict that I couldn’t quite get on board with, as it makes it difficult to know how to feel during certain points of the film. Regardless of this, Ma becomes terrifying towards the end of the film and things progress to a seriously twisted level that no-one would have seen coming.
Ma is an absolutely wild ride of a film; it orbits you on social media for a couple of months before ghosting you and then coming back out of nowhere with some seriously WTF moments. It had me screaming with laughter and then screaming in terror, something that I find to be one of the most effective storytelling methods within the horror genre. You’ll be surprised by how sadistic this film starts to become towards the end, but that’s what made me love it even more.
You might hate this film, you might love this film, but however you feel there’s no denying that this one really is lit.
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Cast: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, McKaley Miller