Directed By: Tate Taylor
Written By: Scotty Landes, Tate Taylor
I wasn’t sure about this movie after first seeing the trailer. It looked like a story that I have heard a million times. Then I saw the crazy in Octavia Spencer’s eyes and I knew they had my money. Octavia Spencer is a national treasure and the opportunity to watch her act crazy as hell is way too good to pass up
There is more to Ma than the trailers let on (to the credit of the trailers, please stop showing me everything). The advertising campaign makes it look like just another movie about a crazy person becoming infatuated with other people and at it’s core that’s true. The screenwriters, Scotty Landes and Tate Taylor, wrote a smart version of that story though. They steered clear of a lot of the tropes, gave Sue Ann/Ma a backstory and kept the audience guessing what was going to happen next.
The material is elevated by the performances, not just of Spencer but by the entire cast. I would watch Octavia Spencer sit in a chair and read the Bible and find it riveting, watching her spiral into complete insanity is beyond incredible. The rest of the cast holds their own too. There was never a doubt that Juliette Lewis would be great, I only wish that we had a scene or two more of her interacting with her daughter. Speaking of the daughter, our main character Maggie is played by Diana Silvers. This is the second weekend in a row that I have seen a movie that Silvers is in. Last week while watching Booksmart, she grabbed my attention even though she has a relatively small role (see Booksmart, by the way, it’s not horror but it’s a lot of fun). Upon further investigation I found out that I have seen everything that Silvers has been in and she is good in all of it. She stands as tall as Spencer and Lewis in this film with her ability to bring Maggie to life.
The overall tone and feel of Ma is spot on as well. I credit director Tate Taylor for being able to create an atmosphere that isn’t quite ominous but definitely let’s the audience know that something isn’t right. He uses the small town setting of the story to great effect. It’s easy to feel safe in a small town but adding just a hint of the dark undercurrent to the look of the film makes it unsettling even if you’re not sure why.
Ma is a very good movie but it’s not great. The story is good, the script is good and the direction is good. It’s the performances that standout in this film. With a lesser cast, this movie lands with a dud. Thank God they had the foresight to cast Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers and Juliette Lewis. You should see Ma not because it is going to be the best, or even your favorite, horror movie of the year but because it’s well executed and it’s a helluva lot of fun.