We all know the horror film cliches that have become the defining signatures of the genre. There is always the damsel – a girl running through the woods, who trips and falls hindering her ability to escape the killer. Then there is the “slutty” girl victim who is usually killed right after having sex with someone – or during. There is also the muscular jock who inevitably challenges the killer in a roid rage-esque, “Come On, I’ll kick your ass” declaration – seemingly unimpressed with the killer’s 20-inch machete and blood splattered ski mask.
The list goes on and on. There is no shortage of horror film cliches, but one of my favorites is the observation that the black guy (or girl) is often the first one to get hacked up, or at the latest –right after the blond, busty, or ‘slutty’ girl gets it. These stereotypes are of course all interchangeable in horror films.
However, with the emergence of new horror film master, Jordan Peele, the cliche of the “black guy/girl gets killed first” has been dismantled. In his films, black characters reign victorious as the heroes and saviors – a sharp departure for a genre in which African American presence has been minimal.
Enter “Ma” – the new suspense/horror film that once again shatters stereotypes by casting the sweet-faced, Octavia Spencer as the film’s starring lead; one who in this instance, also happens to be a most psychologically twisted, violent antagonistic killer of teenagers who look like a reboot of Dawson’s Creek.
The film opens on May 31st but the disturbing trailer has been playing online for the past few months and now the commercial airings are in full swing. For Spencer who has built her Oscar-winning brand on a convincing presence as a wide-eyed, caring, mom-like figure, “Ma” is a daring film choice. That said, it is the mastery of her craft and self-awareness that allows her to show off in this film why she’s one of the greatest actors of her generation.
Octavia Spencer has an instinctive savvy, knowing that her face is synonymous with trust, care, empathy, and warmth. You want her to tuck you in at night or allow you to cry on her shoulder and share your woes as she bestows matriarchal wisdom upon you. Her character in “Ma” shares this same self-awareness – traits she ultimately uses to seduce her young victims before unleashing the wrath of crazy upon them.
“Ma” looks like a wild ride and whereas it does seem to turn the horror film genre on its head once again in the tradition of “Us” and “Get Out,” it still manages to succumb to one of the oldest, cliche no-no’s in horror movies: that one room in the house where people have been warned NOT to enter. Of course, they always enter anyway. For some reason they just do, and usually, they live (or die) to regret it. See you on May 31st at Ma’s!
This piece is an opinion piece by one Contributing Writer for Instinct Magazine and may not reflect the opinion of the magazine or other Contributing Writers.