DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/2/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/3/2019
Every movie, even fantasy and science-fiction films, sets up their own reality and invites us into this world. Once we enter this world, certain rules are established and we are asked to believe the story. However, there are some movies, even those which are supposedly grounded in reality, which present us with situations that can be difficult to swallow. Even if a movie is halfway decent, if we aren’t buying into the legitimacy of the story, it can take us out of the movie. This was what it was like with Ma, a film which shouldn’t strain credibility, but does so from the outset.
Erica (Juliette Lewis) returns to her hometown in Mississippi with her teenaged daughter, Maggie (Diana Silvers), in tow. While Erica takes a job at a casino, Maggie enters the local high school immediately makes friends with Haley (McKaley Miller), Andy (Corey Fogelmanis), Chaz (Gianni Paolo), and Darrell (Dante Brown). She’s asked to hang out with this crew and when they hit the local convenience store to try and score some beer, they ask a stranger, Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer), to buy the booze for them. She reluctantly agrees and sends the kids on their way. When they next venture out again, they run into Sue Ann again, she invites them back to her house, insisting that they need a safe place to party. The kids welcome this opportunity and live it up in Sue Ann’s basement. However, they don’t seem to notice how Sue Ann is inserting herself into their lives and how her motherly concern begins to take on an obsessive quality.
As noted above, Ma asks a lot from the audience from very early on in the film. I often question why every movie about high school portrays it as hell on Earth, but Ma goes too far in the other direction, as Maggie is taken in by a group of seemingly cool kids on her first day. It’s great to see that they’re accepting of the new kid, but this seems far-fetched. While this may be excusable, reality slowly wanders away as the film progresses. Would kids be so desperate to party that they’d go to a complete strangers house to do so? Even assuming that we believe that, would an even larger group then join them. There’s also a lot of coincidences with people who haven’t seen each other in decades suddenly running into one another seemingly for the sake of this story.
We also get an odd message from Ma. Screenwriter Scotty Landes usually pens comedies and, as much as I hate to speculate, must have not enjoyed high school. Why make this assumption? Because Ma plays out as a bizarre high school social revenge fantasy on two levels. First of all, we have the point mentioned above that Maggie is accepted on day one. Anyone who has every started at a new school has wondered what it would be like to magically make friends on the first day. (Acquaintances? Sure, but a whole new posse? I don’t think so.) Then, the second half of the film turns into a fantasy where an unpopular person seeks revenge on those who wronged them in school. The whole thing plays out in a “If they could see me now” fashion which shifts focus from the main story.
The pedigrees involved here may be the strangest aspect of Ma. Director Tate Taylor has had a very diverse career thus far, having helmed The Help, Get on Up, and The Girl on the Train. Thus, it’s not necessarily surprising that he’d try his hand as a horror-thriller. But, it is surprising that someone with such an accomplished resume (He directed The Help for crying out loud) would pick something so pedestrian. He’s brought along with him The Help cast members Octavia Spencer and Allison Janney – Both of whom are Oscar winners and both of whom deserve a better film. Not that Ma is a truly bad movie, it just never does anything special. The story asks too much of us, while not being challenging. There are a couple of moments of surprising violence, but it’s never creepy or scary. Spencer does her best to be menacing, but she’s never intimidating. The characters aren’t very appealing and it’s difficult to feel for them, as they’re the ones who went home with an adult. It’s certainly great to see so many accomplished people in a horror movie, but they can’t make Ma a better role model.
Ma leaves us in the dark with the whole dog blood thing on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail works well and the picture never looks flat. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround and subwoofer effects really come into play during the finale. But the really impressive moments come from the sounds which emanate from Sue Ann’s house and which fill the surround and front channels, often highlighting individual sounds.
The Ma Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We begin with twelve DELETED SCENES which run about 12 minutes. These are all quite brief and don’t include any new characters or subplots. We also get an ALTERNATE ENDING (2 minutes) which just adds an odd coda to the story. “Creating Sue Ann” (3 minutes) offers interviews with Spencer, Taylor, and Jason Blum, who give an overview of the character, as Spencer describes how she approached the role. “Party at Ma’s” (4 minutes) is a brief featurette which mainly focuses on Taylor’s work as director, and the cast, where we get comments from the young actors. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long