A refreshing tonic of B-movie pleasures after watching the utter uselessness and tedium of Dark Phoenix, Tate Taylor‘s Ma is worth a watch for fans of low-key, high-concept horror. Also, from its fierce females who dominate the narrative, to some solidly pleasurable campiness, to more than one instance of yummy male nudity, Ma is pretty gay.
Ma stars Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as Sue Ann, an assistant vet who, surprisingly enough, says yes when a group of high-school friends (Diana Silvers, McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, Gianni Paolo and Dante Brown) approach her outside a liquor store, asking if she’ll help them buy booze. ‘Ma,’ as the kids call her, even allows them to party in her basement. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or something like that, and after a few fun-if-kind-of-awkward boozey parties with Ma, it becomes clear Sue Ann is hiding some dangerous secrets.
Ultimately, this movie is, inevitably, the Octavia Spencer show. A reminder that she’s one of the best actors on the planet. She can be the sympathetic victim and the big scary movie monster, sometimes even in the same scene. This silly-yet-rather-enjoyable B-movie doesn’t deserve what she puts into it, but it will do nothing to tarnish her reputation. The women drive the thing. Oscar winner Allison Janney appears as Sue Ann’s overbearing, expletive-happy boss. Juliette Lewis plays a mother who’s given up on a California dream. Missi Pyle is in here, too. As a drunken mess.
Though nearly all of the violence happens in the final reel, there are a few moments of serious gore. The whole enterprise is pretty campy and tongue-in-cheek.
The gayest moment perhaps is when hunky 23-year-old actor Gianni Paolo gets totally naked. Frankly, the movie would probably work better narratively without this scene (it’s jarring), but day-umn. What a fantastic, globular butt. Big. Whoa.
Out actor Luke Evans is in the movie. He gets naked, too. Although it’s rather clearly a prosthetic piece we’re working with, we get a good look at his muscular, hairy, totally hot body. That part’s real.
There are some tonal issues, some plot holes. But ultimately I think this is a pretty good time for a niche horror audience.
From Universal Pictures and Blumhouse, Ma is now playing.