Octavia Spencer gives a Masterclass as a black Margaret White, bringing perfect levels of psychosis, sympathy and dancing to the titular character who invites a group of teenagers to hang out in her basement. Before you can say “Munchausen by proxy” she turns into Kathy Bates with a gun, or Annie Wilkes Booth if you will.
Essentially Misery Loves Carrie, this thriller does the usual dogs and Facebook stalking thing better than this year’s other award-winner-goes-psycho-killer movie Greta. The Elm Street style ‘sins of the fathers (and mothers)’ backstory is poorly paced and Tate Taylor’s (The Help, Get On Up, The Girl on the Train) steady direction lacks the horror of a film like Don’t Breathe, but there are some solid laughs and a party soundtrack that keeps Ma from getting too meh.
The teenagers are refreshingly likeable for a film like this, with a strong family resemblance between protagonist Maggie (Diana Silvers) and her mother (Juliette Lewis). Allison Janney (I, Tonya) also appears as a vet, having gained experience working with animals on that West Wing episode with the turkeys.
Ma is devoid of surprise but a fun showcase for Spencer’s talents (and what might be the first Plinkett reference in a mainstream movie), making us look forward to a sequel where she goes to South America called Ma 2: Picchu.