Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Review: "Ma" is better than expected, but still too familiar

Ma Review
I wonder if every high schooler wished they had an adult who invited them into their house so they could drink and smoke weed. I'm sure my high school friends and I would have got into drinking quicker than we did had that been the case. But alas, nothing of the sort ever happened. Such is the case for "Ma." A group of teenagers one day try begging adults to buy them alcohol, and Sue Anne (Octavia Spencer) takes them up on it. Then eventually she invites the group over to her house, sets some ground rules and allows them to party at her house. Sometimes she even participates in the fun times. Sounds cool, huh? Ripe for satire.

The movie actually takes a huge left turn. "Ma" ends up becoming a horror film. Its got kind of a predictable outcome but Octavia Spencer is so good that she keeps you watching. There are some twists and turns along the way, but ultimately its a horror movie with no scares. Instead, its a dark moral fable that asks the audience not to bully people and to never accept alcohol from strangers. 

Diana Silvers plays Maggie Thompson, who moves to Ohio with her mother Erica (Juliette Lewis). This is her hometown and she needs to find work because Maggie's father left them. Maggie quickly meets friends and starts flirting with boys when they meet Sue Anne. When they first start going to Sue Anne's house, it all seems fun. Sue Anne does some questionably weird things at times, things in which any teenager would get the fuck out of that house pronto. But hey, you know teenagers HAVE to be dumb in horror movies otherwise the sub-genre can't function. Soon enough, Maggie gets the idea that Sue Anne is out to harm them.

Sue Anne is, at the very least, an interesting villain because she's very much a victim. Much like Freddy Kruger, Sue Anne is making the children suffer for the sins of the father. Maggie begins to fall for a boy named Andy (Corey Foglemanis) whose father Ben (Luke Evans) knew Sue Anne as teenagers, along with Erica. Erica, Ben and their friends as teenagers did something very, very horrible to Sue Anne and now she's getting her revenge. It plays for a nice dramatic left turn, but with the concept of a woman who invites teenagers over to drink and smoke weed, the possibilities are endless and the movie just never aims high.

The acting is okay, all the teenagers are fine. They serve a certain purpose in movies like these, and the kids roll with it as best they can, making their characters' dumb decisions seem tense. The all-star of this is no doubt Spencer. She throws herself into her role and takes the whole thing seriously. She even almost makes you buy into the absurdities of the movie. Most of the other well known actors are fine, but not used much. Luke Evans is fine, although its never explained how an American teenager developed a slight British accent as an adult.

While some moments in the film hurt, and while Spencer is really great. "Ma" kinda just feels lukewarm from beginning to finish

FINAL GRADE: C

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