Ma is a slice of schlock horror from Girl on the Train director Tate Taylor and the production company Blumhouse, who are behind smart modern horrors like The Purge and Get Out. The titular subject is Su Ann (Octavia Spencer), a lonely middle-aged woman working in a thankless job as a veterinary aide. A chance meeting with some high school kids asking her to buy them alcohol leads to her attempting to reclaim the youth she didn’t enjoy the first time around.
Ma inveigles her way into the teens’ group with free booze and a basement to party in, but she soon becomes needy and off-putting. Maggie (luminous presence Diana Silvers) doesn’t trust her and feels the group should stop hanging out with her, especially new love interest Andy (Corey Fogelmanis) who their host takes an unhealthy interest in. But Ma will not be put off easily and sends increasingly desperate videos to the group, popping up at their school unexpectedly.
Spencer clearly relishes her role, switching from unhinged to genial disconcertingly quickly. She is a blend of deranged and, at times, sympathetic. This is a new kind of baddie, pottering around her carnage in a lilac striped cardigan and pink slacks. The fact that she appears so far from a conventional villain almost makes her scarier.
Alison Janney is great as always in a cameo as Su Ann’s boss, who only ever sails past telling her to get off her phone. Juliette Lewis is also a joy to watch as always as Maggie’s caring single mother.
The film is one part Carrie, one part Get Out and entirely bonkers. It wears small-town twisted well. The plot might not be the most sharply paced: there is maybe too much setup and not enough explanation of the back story and the finale is dispatched too quickly. But there are plenty of jump scares and the movie high on WTF-ness, which makes it entertaining. The original villain also provides some genuinely creepy moments.
Ma is released nationwide on 31st May 2019.
Watch the trailer for Ma here: