The newest addition to the somewhat frivolous teen horror genre, “Ma” is a hard-R rated tour de force exploitation flick, fully embracing its camp roots with Octavia Spencer’s Sue Ann, a powerfully crazy performance akin to classic Halloween villain Michael Meyers. Surprisingly cruel, especially in its last act, this film’s self-awareness of its existence as trash-horror is what makes it so wildly enjoyable, bringing a fresh character to a genre well-worn with predictability. Though at times distracted by needlessly vulgar sex scenes, the film survives as a strikingly memorable, if somewhat janky, modern exploitation film.
New in town, quiet 16-year-old Maggie (Diana Silvers) struggles to make friends at school. Eventually being adopted by a group of popular students, she is invited to drink the night away with them while her mom is at work. However, their partying habits suddenly change when a mysterious older woman, named Sue Ann, buys their alcohol for them and allows them to party in her basement under one condition: nobody goes upstairs. As word of Sue Ann’s basement spreads across school, Maggie and her newfound friends start to become wary of her strange behavior.
Incredibly gnarly, “Ma” is proof that a movie doesn’t have to necessarily be good to be enjoyed. Director Tate Taylor (of “The Help”) and Octavia Spencer make a fantastic, creative time once again, and the pure entertainment of watching the latter become entirely unhinged is incredibly satisfying, making the boringly standard story easily forgivable. As a whole, “Ma” teeters between being so-bad-it’s-good and being actually good. Absolutely a guilty pleasure, its “wait, what just happened?”-ness far eclipses its actual quality. Far from flawless, its decision to channel the B-movie energy of decades past almost works against its points, weighing the story down with uneven pacing and backstory, preventing Sue Ann from being able to fully unleash her insane potential for destruction.
Self-aware in its campiness, “Ma” is certainly one of the best teen horror movies in a long while. Noticeably more hardcore and intense than the vast majority of its predecessors, its unique setup and fantastic performance by Octavia Spencer in the titular role bring it from good to great. Definitely a film for fans of classic horror films like “Hellraiser” and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Ma” brings the enjoyably cheesy elements that made those films so popular into the modern age, and goodness does it deliver.
Rose Dunton, originally of Nampa, has been living in Pocatello for the past four years. Proficient in Japanese, she is an avid film buff.