Teenagers, beware. Your mum will hate this movie. If that makes you all the more likely to watch it, then fine, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. See it with friends and not in a few months’ time on the family sofa. Stuffed with all the things parents love to hate (underage drinking, sex, smoking weed, murderous old ladies…) Ma is like a red rag to an anxious, overprotective bull. Trust us, you won’t be allowed out for a month.
Set in small-town, middle America, Tate Taylor’s bizarre schlock-horror starts innocently enough. New girl Maggie (Diana Silvers) is invited to a party by some typical high school teens. Too young to buy alcohol, they ask a passing middle-aged woman to get it for them. When she agrees, the group strike up a friendship with the lonely local who lets them get drunk in her basement. But what starts out as a a friendly gesture soon escalates into dangerous obsession when it becomes clear how unhinged Sue Ann really is.
Played by Octavia Spencer, Ma — as they nickname Sue Ann — is a total wackjob. Eye-poppingly angry one minute and gushing the next, Spencer leaps between emotions, turning on a dime. To say she looks like she’s having fun is a next-level understatement. Got a pen? The Oscar winner might sign her career away to Blumhouse. Unfortunately, Ma isn’t always such a hoot for the audience.
No, this bonkers B-movie is likely to upset some. The trailer teases a dread-filled psycho-horror, but in truth, Ma is very different. Owing much to the campy horrors of the ’70s, it boasts more laughs than scares. If you go in expecting suspenseful tension a la Get Out, you’ll be disappointed. Here is a filmmaker let off his chain — and out of his tree. Eager to shock, keen to be liked and actually quite confusing, Taylor’s latest wants you to scream with terror then laugh your guts up all in one breath — such is the speed in which Ma rattles through emotions. But by the time Sue Ann goes full psycho killer, the viewer is so befuddled they’re not sure how to react.
That said, there are a lot of entertaining moments, and Spencer is delicious in her first villain role. Certainly, no one could be bored by Ma, which is as unpredictable as its unstable protagonist. There’s a ton of fun to be had here, just don’t expect it to make any sense.