Movie Review: Octavia Spencer makes silly slasher “Ma” work

When I saw the first trailer for “Ma” I wondered how this bizarre slasher story could attract an Academy Award winning actress like Octavia Spencer (The Help, Shape of Water).

I’m still not sure, but it’s a good thing it did, because Spencer is the only reason “Ma” works.

The story begins with young Maggie (Diana Silvers) moving to the rural town where her mother, Erica (played by Juliette Lewis), grew up. After making a couple of friends, the group gets Spencer’s Sue Ann to help them buy some alcohol. The kids bond with Sue Ann who they nickname “Ma”, while partying with her in the basement of her secluded house.

As her reputation for scoring booze for teenagers grows, the parties get bigger and Ma’s behavior with Maggie’s circle of friends becomes obsessive and eventually dangerous, as the we learn more about her troubled past.

Director Tate Taylor’s film does embrace the uncomfortable and funny elements of the same Blumhouse production company that made “Happy Death Day” and that’s where Spencer shines.

You’re supposed to be scared of Ma. You’re supposed to laugh at Ma. And you’re at times suppose to feel sorry for this troubled woman, and it takes an actress like Spencer to effectively do that with a script as limited as this one.

The film does fall into some very common slasher movie pitfalls. It’s predictable, some bad decisions are made by the main characters, and it’s main tool for horror is blood and gore.

But it’s a cheap, fun time, and I think that’s what they were going for here.

To “Ma’s” credit. Spencer isn’t even the only Oscar winner in the cast. Allison Janney (I, Tonya, West Wing) has a minor but scene stealing role.

GRADE: C

Running time: 110 minutes

Rated: “R”

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