Bullying is an issue that affects people everywhere. In terms of films and TV, it’s mostly depicted in schools with kids, even though it does exist pretty much everywhere. For kids, it can be the most difficult, as they are still developing. The way they are treated can change how they become when they eventually grow up into adults. It’s an issue that very prominent when people talk about the state of our countries education system, and now it’s the subject of the new Blumhouse horror film, simply titled Ma.
In a small Ohio town, Maggie (Diana Silvers) is forced to move with her mother Erica (Juliette Lewis) after the departure of her father. Though she’s scared to be the new kid, she quickly befriends a group of rebellious teens. As the new member of their clique, Maggie is forced to ask an older woman named Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) to buy booze for them. Though reluctant, she agrees.
Sue Ann can see that she can’t stop the kids from drinking, so she decides to open up the basement of her home as a perfect drinking spot for them. Going by the nickname Ma, she quickly becomes very popular among the teens. However, it becomes apparent over time that something isn’t quite with Ma. She has a hidden agenda for the kids, and their continued interactions with her will lead them into a waking nightmare.
The low rating should indicate that this isn’t all that great a movie. The inner Blumhouse fanboy in me is refusing to admit that it is truly terrible, which it isn’t. It had the potential to take its story and try to do something different with it. Since it was made by that studio, maybe they could’ve gone in a more supernatural way, giving the character of Ma something that makes her more sinister.
But in the end, they chose not to. Ma rehashes an over-used story that fails to add any new wrinkles to the revenge thriller sub-genre, and also suffers from a lack of focus and an overabundance of characters. The backstory created for Ma herself feels rehashed and doesn’t make her anymore likable when put next to the horrific things she does to the people around her.
The only good thing to really come out of the film is Octavia Spencer, who gives a good performance as always. She does a good job trying to become the character of Ma in all her psychotic nature. The problem is that it’s still not enough for her to really break away from her usual character. She is more crazy than usual, but she still came off as only herself. She’s just lucky that she did good in the role.
The main problem with the film is that it’s story isn’t all that original. We’ve seen all of the elements, twists, character motivations, past traumas, and characters in horror movies that have come before. This film had the chance to add some new twists to it’s familiar storyline, but chose to rely on many different twists that have been used and over-used in much better horror films.
The story also suffers from a lack of focus, both in story and characters. All this comes from a real overabundance of central characters. The film attempts to show the stories of Maggie, Ma, and parents of the kids in Maggie’s group, and they aren’t the only characters in this film. There are a number of storylines, and the film can’t decide which one it wants to focus on. This leaves the audience confused on who to root for, and who to be scared of.
Since Ma is put at the forefront of the story, she doesn’t really come off as a good villain. You can see why they tried to add some backstory to her. They tried to make her a more sympathetic character so audiences can care about her. But she’s the villain. We’re not supposed to care for her. Villains like her are better when we know next to nothing about them, so giving her a relatable character background gives us a strange reaction when she starts her psychotic rampage.
Ma had the opportunity to add something new to its story, and had a star that was clearly up to the task. Unfortunately, its derivative story elements, overabundance of characters, and lack of focus make this film feel rather unnecessary. Its decision to make Ma sympathetic gives us the wrong response when she goes nuts, and her clichéd backstory and confusing motivations make her annoying rather than threatening. Even though it had the distinct feel of a Blumhouse film, it’s not enough for us to watch this anymore than once.