Ma review: Psychological horror and a cautionary tale

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Ma: A Series of Missed Opportunities

Ma has some really original ideas but they never fully develop. There’s less time for certain storylines, giving more opportunities for various tropes. From infiltrating a main character’s home through false pretense (a la Fright Night, Fatal Attraction), to the act of cutting and collaging oneself into pictures.

Something we know all movie villains love to do. In the final act, one of Ma’s quotes even pokes fun at the typical African American tropes in horror movies.

The film struggles with plot points, instead scattering around different stories that never fully formulate. Even the main group of teenagers, (with the exception of maybe Maggie) aren’t particularly interesting or likable.

In fact, for maybe the first time ever in the genre, it’s the parents who spark more interest. Juliette Lewis as a cool mom having to face her failures. Town floozie Mercedes, and Andy’s dad Ben who has the most personal connection to Ma are also compelling characters.

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But there are bright spots too. Allison Janney (in a cameo) as the veterinarian boss only has a few lines. Mostly yelling at Ma to get off her phone. But her scenes work, providing some comic relief.

Especially one particularly ironic part late in the movie. It also plays with some fun Misery inspired moments.

Ma’s actual home, (which she forbids anyone from entering from the basement or otherwise) displays a love of cats, and tribal masks. A theme that feels like a foreshadowing of something but sadly doesn’t return.

Plus, Spencer’s portrayal of a disturbed woman, motivated by revenge, and a longing to fit in shows us a layered villain. One who walks a fine line between sympathetic and sadistic. Initially, this role in Ma had no back story.

She was just a lonely woman terrorizing popular kids. Instead, sharing her traumatic past with the audience allows us to feel for her. While most of her actions are reprehensible, they originate from something we all relate to. A simple desire for love and acceptance.

Ma isn’t the typical horror comedy. It’s not a slasher, so don’t expect any high body counts. Although one prominent kill in particular definitely hits the horror mark. This is a film where psychological torture, not gore is the main event.

First, the torture of a young Sue Ann by the cool kids. Then later, Sue Ann’s own version of torment towards her bullies, and their children.

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Spencer’s wit, mixed with the pain and evil behind her big, doe eyes pulls you in, keeping you entertained and curious. If only they had given us a bit more of Ma to unfold.

Fan of the seemingly unstoppable Blumhouse? See Ma yet? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!