Ma movie review: More comedy than thriller, but it still works

Ma movie courtesy Universal Pictures
Ma movie courtesy Universal Pictures /

Ma exceeds expectations. Octavia Spencer shines without being over the top as the friendly, but creepy lady from town. Ma (#MaMovie) is a must see.

Ma has arrived in theaters and while the Rotten Tomatoes takes are pretty mild from both critics and regular viewers I believe the movie delivered in several ways. Most obviously the performance by Octavia Spencer but also in the way the story is told, the pacing, the dialogue and the way the climax unfolds.

It is not often you can say that not a single moment or character decision made you roll your eyes during a suspenseful movie, but Ma accomplishes this.

Yet another Blumhouse production, Ma follows a group of teens who want to drink and hang out, but need an adult to buy them alcohol. Octavia Spencer’s Sue Ann takes pity on them and helps them out. This becomes an arrangement, but Sue Ann is a responsible adult and invites them to hang out at her house so she can know they’re safe.

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That’s when things start to get weird, and if you’ve seen the trailer you get the idea. I was worried that the trailer may have shown too much, but after seeing the movie I am pleased to report that it does not.

Octavia Spencer

Once again, Octavia is amazing. She has often played characters that were overlooked by those around them and Sue Ann is not different in that regard. She has also found a way to get back at those people in many of these roles. Ma does this as well but in a much different way.

She pulls off the unassuming neighbor, she pulls off the middle-aged person trying to keep up with the young people, and then she pulls off the psycho. Her eyes are her biggest asset and this is on full display in the film, but her facial expressions in general were everything. This was used for both dramatic and humorous effect and I feel that her performance deserves recognition, even if the movie wasn’t what you expected.

Ma movie courtesy Universal Pictures
Ma movie courtesy Universal Pictures /

The humor

The humor was probably the strongest part of the Ma experience. The kids are funny, Ma is funny, and the dialogue in general is hilarious. It’s funny because the dialogue doesn’t seem forced but does capture the essence of teens and teen behavior when confronted with the many awkward Ma encounters.

The kids are able to acknowledge she’s weird without realizing that they are actually in danger. Even when they do realize something is off they don’t see her as a serious enough threat. Ma’s interactions with her boss, Doctor Brooks (Allison Janney) are some of the best understated funny scenes. Heather Marie Pate’s character Ashley was a touch that could have been seen as just goofy but works well within the context of the film somehow.

If you go into Ma understanding that there is a ton of humor and the movie isn’t going to be very scary, you’ll enjoy it. I have to believe that the people who are not enjoying the movie were expecting something different.

The Dialogue and Decisions

These two elements are so important to me and I’ve seen a lot of movies lately that do a great job of making me believe the characters and scenarios. In horror movies, this tends to be an issue but that is not the case for Ma. Every character fit their role.

Each kid looked and acted like kids I knew in high school and Ma acted like a middle-aged person who wasn’t popular in school and was finally getting some attention. Horror movies and thrillers can only exist when people make bad decisions.

However, many have their characters make decisions that don’t make any sense. There is maybe one scene where this takes place but for the most part the bad decisions can be chalked up to teenagers being poor decision makers.

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If you’re expecting Ma to scare you or make it difficult for you to sleep at night you’re not going to get that. There are definitely brief scary or tense moments but they don’t drag this out for effect at all. If you just want to have a good time at the movies and see an interesting story play out then you will enjoy Ma. Enjoy the laughs, the awkwardness, the creepiness, and the twists.

Ma is currently available in theaters.