Octavia Spencer Delivers A Killer Performance in Ma

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Octavia Spencer delivers a killer performance in her new thriller Ma, now playing in theaters.

A lonely middle-aged woman (Octavia Spencer) befriends some teenagers by letting them party in the basement of her home. But there are some house rules: One of the kids has to stay sober, don’t curse, and never go upstairs. They must also refer to her as Ma. But as Ma’s hospitality starts to curdle into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma’s place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on Earth.

The good thing about Ma is that will surprise you more than once. The bad news is that the film fails to turn some of its most interesting ideas into anything more than missed opportunities. Ma is titled the same way that movies like Alien or Terminator are – Ma is the villain of the film, but is also the main attraction. The lure of Ma isn’t to see if teens survive their new friendship with Ma, but its to see what exactly Ma has in store for them. Ma was designed to make audiences gasp in horror, squeal with delight, tweet in shock and meme screenshots of the film. Ma hits the sweet spot in the genre of cheap thrills. It’s good enough to be enjoyable and bad enough to be wild.

Spencer’s performance is enough though to keep the whole film from sinking. Finally in a well-deserved leading role – opposed from being part of the supporting cast – she lets loose, committing fully to Ma’s crazy energy without losing the more vulnerable emotions that Ma eventually reveals. Her mood-switch between kindness and deadliness becomes almost Misery-like. Her performance improves a script that gets messier and messier as secrets are revealed.

Ma is the kind of movie that’s hard to call a “guilty pleasure” but is still enjoyable to watch given just how crazy the plot becomes, how full of catchphrases the film is (“Don’t make me drink alone!”). Hopefully, Spencer’s next lead role will be as fun, and a bit more thought-out.

Critic Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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Writer/Blogger. Movies, television and reviewing them are my passions. When I put my mind to something, there is nothing I can't accomplish. Ryan also has a movie blog:

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