‘Ma’ review: Octavia Spencer mixes laughter with revenge

Did you know that the greatest single threat the world faces today is single, middle-aged women? I didn’t either. But the movies are dead certain they’re coming to murder us all.

“Greta,” a thriller that came out earlier this year, starred Isabelle Huppert as a creepy New York woman who befriends a naive 20-something, only to become her crazed stalker.

The latest example of lurking ladies is “Ma,” director Tate Taylor’s film led by that notoriously terrifying monster Octavia Spencer. The warm-as-apple-pie actress plays against type as a veterinary assistant named Sue Ann, who one day buys a group of local teens some booze and invites them to chug it in the safety — ha! — of her suburban basement. The students drink up, including Maggie (Diana Silvers), who just moved to town.

And then Ma gets clingy.

Sue Ann, who they nickname “Ma,” seeks out the teens’ social media accounts and phone numbers and begins constantly texting them wackadoodle messages, demanding they come back and party at her home. Teens, it turns out, like drinking, so they do.

This is where the plot starts to strain credulity. Would you return to the home of the clearly disturbed woman who made you strip naked while pointing a gun at you, only to laugh and say “just kidding”? Even Ralph Wiggum from “The Simpsons” would know better. And, by the way, I grew up in a midsize suburb. There are plenty of places to drink that are not a total stranger’s unfinished basement.

Still, “Ma” is a much more enjoyable ride than the even more preposterous “Greta,” which got lost in undeserved self-seriousness. The relative success of “Ma” is largely thanks to an intense performance from Spencer as the deranged madwoman.

Sue Ann, we learn through flashbacks, faced some psychological trauma in her high school years that made her fly over the cuckoo’s nest as an adult. You see the PTSD most hilariously in the music she blares at her 2019 teen ragers: “Safety Dance,” “Funkytown” and “Kung Fu Fighting.” Spencer gets laughs doing the Robot, but little do the kids know she’s really getting revenge.

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