by Dan Skip Allen
Octavia Spencer has been a viable character actor for her entire career. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2012 for her role in The Help. Directing that movie was Spencer’s longtime friend Tate Taylor. They are such close friends that they were roommates in college. Who better than Taylor to cast Spencer in a role of an older woman looking for acceptance in Ma. They have proven that they work well as a team.
Octavia Spencer portrays Sue Anne, an older woman who is approached by a group of teenagers who want her to buy them beer & liquor so they can go hang out and party. Eventually Ma convinces the kids to come hang out at her house in her cellar, where they will be safe from the police and meddling parents. Ma even goes to the length of changing the cellar around to make it more appealing & friendly for the kids. She is fitting in perfectly with these teens more than half her age.
Maggie, portrayed by Diana Silvers, most recently from the teen ‘coming-of-age’ film Booksmart is the new kid in town. Maggie gets invited to hang with a group of high school kids. As the new kid she doesn’t want to upset them, so she goes along when they ask her to come to a party with them. Typical ‘High School kid’ antics ensue.
Tate Taylor has done a few book-to-movie adaptations; The Help, Girl on a Train and Get on Up although none of these have prepared him for directing this film. This is his first foray into the horror film genre . Blumhouse Productions in conjunction with Universal Pictures has a formula. Low budget horror films with a hook or premise to catch your attention. In this film, it’s Octavia Spencer’s character of Sue Anne or as she likes to be called ‘Ma’. This film doesn’t work without her. She gives an over the top of performance as this middle aged woman. Her obsession to make things fun, ends up being a nightmare for these teens and their parents. Spencer chews up the scenery making Instagram videos and dancing the robot. You can tell she is having an absolute blast playing this character.
Some minor issues I had with the film were; Not enough time was given to her boss played by Allison Janney, Ben Hawkins played by Luke Evans or Mercedes played by Missi Pyle. Flashback sequences were few and far between.
The stand out is Octavia Spencer’s performance. She’s the reason to see Ma and she is glorious to behold.
3 out of 5 stars
Dan Skip Allen