We all enter the crucible of terror known as high school and emerge after four years ready for adulthood. Correct that. We emerge ready for another four years that change us forever. But some never recover from the trauma suffered between ages 13 and 17. Some are kind and some are cruel. And cruelty plays a significant role in the film Ma.
Octavia Spencer is one of those actresses you just want to hug. Thus, she is perfectly cast as Sue Ann (nicknamed Ma), the cuddly adult willing to buy booze for a car full of partying teens. Or the hostess who offers her home as a safe place to drink, “to keep you off the road” she pleads. Who would suspect she’s a psychopath?
Spencer is an academy award winner we all remember from The Help and Hidden Figures. But she has had an extremely busy career, frequently playing nurses on TV and in film. She turns the mood from laughter to horror on a dime in Ma, manipulating the impressionable teen victims she befriends outside a liquor store.
And then it quickly gets creepy.
This is a tale of a deeply traumatized young girl seeking revenge on those who abused her decades earlier. Now, the classmates who bullied her have teens of their own. And did they learn anything along the way? Seems not. So they are ripe for revenge, and temptation is being fostered at every turn. Just DO NOT go upstairs!
From the onset, you find yourself glad to have survived this period of your life, glad that your own kids made it through, and worried about the grandkids’ turn if you are so blessed.
The stomach churning tension experienced during the recent film Greta ( reviewed previously) or Get Out, build analogously toward the evening that Carrie went to the prom, complete with flames and destruction. Unfortunately they skip the “Carrie effect” once the psychopathic main character has gotten her come-uppance. It somewhat disappointingly ends there, minus the nerve jangling, jolting reappearance of the monster who most certainly was destroyed a few moments earlier.
Diana Silvers, whose short career is off to a great start, plays Maggie, the new girl in town whose random act of kindness plays a pivotal role late in the film. Other than that, no bad deed goes unpunished in Ma, and Ma is doing all the punishing.
Director Tate Taylor, who also directed The Help, has directed three actresses to Oscar nominations. He frequently casts Octavia Spencer in his films.
Oral sex, violence and language earn this film its R rating. Its not one for the kiddies, unless you care to do a lot of explaining.