Ma opens with a vision of disappointment. U-Haul trailer in tow, newly divorced mother Erica (Juliette Lewis) and her 16-year-old daughter Maggie (Diana Silvers) roll to a small town that promises nothing but boredom. Erica returns to the house she left years ago because of the promise of California. Maggie sees it for the first time and approaches the place with an appropriate sense of resignation. It is not San Diego, but they can no longer afford San Diego.
When Erica comes to a casino nearby that keeps her away from home at odd hours, Maggie comes in with some kids drinking their kicks in the quarry, because what else is there to do? And when senior veterinary assistant Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) agrees to buy liquor and offers the slightly more attractive option to party in her basement, Maggie and her friends jump for the chance. When you are bored, why not? And if your host asks you to call her Ma, and then starts acting weird, maybe that's just the price you have to pay to get rid of boredom.
Directed by Tate Taylor (The help, Come on), the new horror film Ma is messy in ways big and small – sometimes to her advantage, sometimes not. But it gets the details of a certain kind of life in a small town. It takes place in a place where everyone knows the others, the humiliations of high school remain forever and teenagers end up unwittingly or unwittingly in the same roles that their parents played for them. MaThe characters – most of them are very unpleasant – rush to each other in joke (but not really), express themselves through often homophobic insults and patronize Sue Ann, even if she does her utmost to receive them. For them, the disappointment in their hometown is still new and more determined by dullness than by pain. For Sue Ann it is the place where she experienced loneliness and humiliation for the first time, and the years have only intensified those feelings. And for this her new friends will soon pay a price.
Without giving away too much, Ma ultimately reveals itself as a kind of time release Carrie, but without the supernatural elements. The friendliness and indulgence of Sue Ann get a creepy touch, long before her teenagers start to suspect that she has her own agenda. After leaving Maggie and her company for the first time in her basement, making them promise not to use the Lord's name in vain or trying to come up, Sue Ann starts partying with them and dancing with them when they come show up at her home, and text & # 39; and if she is lonely. The party cellar makes her the popular teenager she was never, but it also makes her take revenge.
As you would expect from an actress who often finds depths in both large and small roles, Spencer takes the chance to get under the skin of her character, while at the same time playing Sue Ann insane, rightly angry, inexorably empathetic and unexpectedly glamorous. She seems to really enjoy dancing with the teenagers and dressing up for a drink, which gives her a tragedy, even as her behavior becomes more and more worrying. She commits monstrous acts, but she never really looks like a monster.
In interviews, Spencer said she took the lead Mon – a reunion with Taylor, who sent her inside The help – because it not only offered her a chance to appear in a horror film that was different from where & # 39; black people always die in the first 15 minutes & # 39; but because she was going to kill people, a rarity for a black woman in a genre film. (Spencer speaks from experience, her character does not get it from Rob Zombie & # 39; s Halloween II alive.) Originally written by workaholics writer Scotty Landes, Sue Ann was white.
But even though Ma's race is rarely mentioned explicitly, it wraps around the & # 39; s themes of the film. Maggie's friends, just one of them, ignore her affectionately and decide to throw her away as soon as she becomes too demanding, as if they have learned that some people deserve more respect than others. In flashbacks to Sue Ann & # 39; s high school, she appears to be the only black boy in her school, surrounded by white torturers.
Watching Ma, it's hard not to want it, it gave Spencer more room to handle some of the character's contradictions in the course of a more thought-out drama (with some murder that of course was thrown away for good order), or that it was all went on to be a trashy exploitation film that lets the blood and social commentary flow freely. Instead, it tries to take a middle course in its racial approach, and the embarrassment is not always good. Taylor dutifully controls all subjects of the genre – including the now the rigid scenes of the villain using social media – but he is not particularly adept at building up tension or keeping up the momentum of the story. Strange loose ends, such as the murder of a large supportive character that takes place on the screen and in graphic details, then continues almost uncompensated for the rest of the film, starting to become distracting.
But although it is ultimately a sloppy compound shocker, Spencer makes a memorable sloppy shocker in the middle, one that lets a black woman get revenge on both the innocent and the guilty, and comes this one close to treatment if justified. Taylor understands how small towns work, by banning people who don't fit into them, as they cycle through the same wicked transition rides one generation after the other, and Suecer's & # 39; s Sue Ann just becomes the kind of restless avenger so & # 39; deserves a place. Perhaps the only cure for nausea, injustice and endless boredom is to burn it all.