This week, Godzilla: King of the Monsters bashed its way onto cinema screens to become the biggest (and loudest) release of the week. But it’s not the only film out this week – today, Universal Pictures dropped Ma into multiplexes, to offer an alternative type of horror to Warner Bros.’ big monster movie.
Directed by Tate Taylor, Ma is a psychological horror starring Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, Luke Evans and Missi Pyle. The film tells the story of an Sue Ann (aka Ma), an unhinged woman who befriends a group of high school kids, only for things to turn rather nasty.
Here’s the trailer…
OK, right off the bat, Octavia Spencer is brilliant in the role of Sue Ann/Ma. She brings a real creepiness to the character, managing to walk a fine line between likeable mother figure and insane stalker.
There are dollops of Annie Wilkes in her performance and at times when watching Ma I was convinced Spencer was about to chuck out the odd “cockadoodie” line. It didn’t happen and I was glad – instead, Spencer was able to create a three dimensional character that didn’t need to become a Misery clone.
The first time she appears on screen it is clear this is a character who audiences will love to hate. It’s just a shame then that Spencer’s performance is the only thing worth recommending about Ma, because this is a movie that DOES NOT KNOW WHAT IT WANTS TO BE!
Ma is too campy to be taken seriously and it’s not bonkers enough to be insanely brilliant. It aims for somewhere in the middle and misses the mark completely.
I don’t blame Spencer for any of this – this is very clearly an issue with the direction, as well as the script. There are some bizarre choices in this film – from nonsensical character motivations, to casting Academy Award-winning actress, Allison Janney in a thankless cameo – and they scupper the potential at every opportunity.
The film is also underpinned by a terrible series of flashbacks which try to explain Sue Ann’s backstory. Not only are the scenes cliche ridden rubbish, they are also not needed!
The best way to make a character scary is NOT to detail every facet of their life. By showing the audience exactly what led to Sue Ann’s downfall it removes the mystery from the story.
But this isn’t the biggest problem with Ma – that gem is reserved for the way in which Sue Ann commits her crimes. Unlike most horror films, the lead character is careful to cover his/her tracks, so not to cast any suspicion on what they’re up to. That’s not the case here, as there is a bloody path leading right up to Sue Ann’s front door (at one point quite literally).
How did she ever expect to get away with any of her actions? Are audiences to believe that she is that far gone that she hasn’t even thought of an exit plan or an alibi?!
IT MAKES NO SENSE!
What’s perhaps most frustrating about Ma is the fact there are some good ideas in this movie, but unfortunately they’re never brought to the boil. Instead they simmer just under the surface, resulting in a partially cooked offering.
Ma isn’t a terrible movie, it’s simply a missed opportunity. Spencer is good but that’s about it.
And yes, I am aware I’ve been very critical of many of 2019’s new releases, having been less than impressed with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Detective Pikachu, Captain Marvel and the AWFUL Hellboy. Hopefully the next big blockbuster will be the best movie of the year.
*Looks at the release schedule*
The next big blockbuster is X-Men: Dark Phoenix?
I’m keeping everything crossed, but I’m not hopeful.
- Thoughts on Godzilla: King of the Monsters
- How many Urban Legend films are there?
- Lots of horror heading our way in 2020