(I) (2019)

Critic Reviews



Based on 39 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
Ma is one loony little horror film, and Octavia Spencer has a grand old time being the craziest thing in it.
Even as the story descends into full bloody camp at its crescendo, Spencer holds the more ludicrous plot threads together.
Known for her lovable roles in "The Help" and "Hidden Figures," Spencer goes dark and sadistic with an enthusiastic glee, her signature smile (and those bangs!), and she creates one of the most memorable horror villains in recent history. She makes "Ma" worth it.
Spencer works hard to keep us on her side and it’s her messy, melancholic character work that endures, a portrait of a woman broken and breaking those around her that’s really quite hard to shake. Ma is a few more drafts from perfection but the actor playing her is the real deal.
Attempts to be a psychological campy thriller but gets so lost in trying to construct a message that all the exaggerated thrills die before even lifting off.
It’s just that there’s much to recommend it outside of those failings, sharp observations about the trap of small town life and the persona you take on in your teens than you never escape, the casual cruelty of teenagers that can (in the movies, anyway) leave scars that linger forever, the craving for acceptance that once denied, you never outgrow.
The suspense builds creepily enough, with a classic fake-out in a strong first act. But when the movie turns into full-blown horror, which it eventually sort of does, the pacing of the violence is all out of whack.
Taylor’s film only really works if you turn off the rational part of your brain, which isn’t fully developed until you’re in your 20s anyway. If you can ignore the plot holes and gaps in logic, Ma is a fun, dumb time at the movies.
A midnight-movie, exploitation-savvy version of this film, with Spencer chewing up the scenery like nobody’s business, might feasibly have been a camp classic. But this is Tate Taylor’s version: too nervous to thrill, too daft to upset anyone, and constantly policing how much fun it lets Spencer have.
It quickly spins its shaky premise off into an unconvincing study of emotional need and an even harder-to-believe revenge thriller.

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