‘Ma’ review: Split personality

'It is a horror film that is grounded on absurdity'

Oggs Cruz

Published: 3:59 PM July 15, 2019

Updated: 3:59 PM July 15, 2019

MA. Octavia Spencer stars in the movie. All screenshots from YouTube/Universal Pictures

Tate Taylor’s Ma has all the makings of a fun and nifty thriller. 

Sadly, while there is more than a handful of clever ideas, the film just tries a tad too hard to be something that it is not, ending up having a more troubling split personality than its titular character.

Molded from formula

Ma is molded from formula, as its conceit of happy-go-lucky teenagers suffering the consequences of their folly is hardly that novel. 

Even its decision of grounding its horror on a psychologically troubled adult with a great grudge on the world is far from new. The film, while overtly run-of-the-mill, has grand potential to be both thrilling and enjoyable.The problem with Ma is that it just can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be blatantly preposterous or half-heartedly serious. 

With the very talented Octavia Spencer playing the role of the woman who becomes the enabler of her town’s youth for whatever twisted and nefarious reasons, it certainly feels like Taylor has opted to take the route of shaping the character more as a tragic creature than a rampaging nutcase. What is apparent is that Spencer’s powers are stifled by a severely underwritten character. Here character’s motivations are so drawn from cliché and stereotype that her pleas for sympathy is quite mechanical and contrived. 

Jumbled mess

It is a horror film that is grounded on absurdity. 

While it has all the elements of a parable or a morality tale, it is fascinated with shock and shlock, with a climax that has teenagers suffer from physical abuse, shame and lectures that correspond to their particular vices. There is an opportunity for Taylor to turn his film into a true meditation of modern follies, except that this particular material is too busy with the very many things it wants to do. 

The film ends up a very jumbled mess. 

It is clear and unadulterated junkfood that fervently desires to be elevated with disparate ingredients but only succeeds in diluting its being a boisterous spectacle of somewhat pertinent depravity. Ma polices its own entertainment, making sure that it doesn’t go overboard, when it should if only for the sake of achieving its own potential.

Not very convincing

Ma isn’t a bad film. It just isn’t very convincing. —Rappler.com

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.

Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.