“Ma” is much like a car accident: grotesquely horrible but for some reason, you are absolutely unable to look away.
The film, directed by Tate Taylor and produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions, features Octavia Spencer in the titular role of Sue Ann Ellington, soon known to the town’s teenagers as Ma. The story is kicked off when new-girl-in-town Maggie is pressured into soliciting Ellington into buying alcohol for her and her new friends. Initially, Ma refuses but at further insistence, she gives in and then, invites them to drink at her place. She lays down rules about conduct and that they must never enter the upper level of her house. She makes clear that the basement is theirs to do whatever they see fit in it. Over the course of the film, Ma’s true intentions become clearer and clearer. Further information about her past is revealed such as that she went to high school with Maggie’s mom and her boyfriend’s dad, although the memories are not pleasant ones. Ma descends further and further into madness, committing heinous acts of violence and the people of their town that have wronged her.
To put a long story short: this movie is not good. Pretty much every supposedly scary moment is completely set up in the most expected manner possible and there’s never any surprise. This is a typical maneuver by Blumhouse Productions. The movie proceeds in a straightforward manner which makes any moviegoer frustrated but especially the horror audience.
Horror movie fans go see those Spooktacular silver screen gems because they want to see other people scared, not because they want to be scared. The acting in this movie is subpar. A majority of the budget must have been put towards securing Spencer, Allison Janney, Luke Evans, and Missi Pyle because the teenage actors couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag. Their characterization feels bland and overdone, almost as if the director told them to watch other movies with teenagers and just be like them instead of like actual teenagers. That is not to say that the writing team of the director and Scotty Landes isn’t as much to blame. The action doesn’t move from scene to scene. It barely moves within a scene. “Ma” is one of those movies that was made to be a great trailer, but a completely terrible movie.
“Ma” and other pieces in the Blumhouse Productions canon are an afront to cinema. They are the embodiment of commercialism taking over an artform and the sad thing is they will continue to do it. There will be another “Ma” in a couple of years or worse, “Ma 2.” Jason Blum will crank out another septic idea for a movie and his servants at Blumhouse Productions will get to work making their next “blockbuster.” It’s a fight that’s unfortunately not worth fighting because horror has become such a grotesquely twisted medium.
“Ma” receives a D-minus rating.