Sad American carnage
The new psychological, thriller, horror film, Ma, is different from most films in the genre in that it makes its antagonist a mostly sympathetic and sad character, but beyond that it is typical American carnage that eventually drifts into straight-up torture porn.
If Stephen King’s “Carrie” was an older and goofier black woman with no telekinetic powers, she may have been this movie’s Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer), AKA “Ma.” In fact, the only original thing that this film has going for it is its casting of Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) in the role of the deranged killer.
Ma starts off as an interesting psychological study of a lonely woman looking to reconnect with the high school days she never experienced; finally having a chance to prove her worth by buying alcohol for the “cool” kids and giving them a “safe” place to party.
When said kids start taking advantage of Ma’s kindness things start to go awry, and through flashbacks we learn about Sue Ann’s disturbing high school history. At this point it is as if director Tate Taylor and writer Scotty Landes give up on delivering an interesting nod to Alfred Hitchcock and instead they lazily try to appease the “Saw” crowd with blood and guts and the aforementioned torture.
There is so much that I dislike about this movie and that makes it simply irritating to watch: I can’t stand teenage party movies with bratty kids smoking dope and boozing it up; the bullying and loneliness that Sue Ann endures is used in an exploitative way that is not entertaining in the least; and, in the end, the film has multiple loose ends and poor edits that make it, simply, a poorly constructed film.
On the plus side, Spencer does do a fantastic job in this unpleasant role; but there are no winners in this film – except that maybe someone will leave the theater thinking they need to start being a better person; and isn’t that what your mother would want?