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Ma (Blu-ray Review)

Blumhouse for the better and for the worse, is one of the studios I currently admire most in the realm of mainstream Hollywood wide release commercial films. They keep their budgets tight, low and aren’t afraid to take chances when the time is right. Jason Blum himself seems to have an ear to the crowd and a willingness to the creates to want to produce to the best for fans and introduce them to new angles as well. If a film tanks (They rarely do), its not going to sink them. Ma, the recent summer offering, is not the case here as with just a $5 million budget, the movie took in $45 million domestic and $60.5 million worldwide. That’s a big hit and big profit. And now it’s going to hit home where it’ll sure continue to rake in. You can find the Blu-ray edition of the film available on September 3rd. 

Film 

Everybody’s welcome at Ma’s. But good luck getting home safe. Sue Ann (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) is a lonely woman who keeps to herself in a quiet Ohio town. When a local teenage girl asks Sue Ann to buy some booze for her group of friends, she decides to make some new friends of her own and offers her basement for the kids to party. They just have to follow a few simple house rules: Someone has to stay sober. Don’t curse. Never go upstairs. And call her “Ma.” As Ma’s hospitality curdles into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma’s place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on earth.

Regardless of the overall picture, to me this movie was sold off as “The Octavia Spencer Horror Show” and in that essence, the movie truly does deliver. While she isn’t our protagonist, Spencer carries the film with her Academy Award winning expertise and she is surrounded with a cast of kids that are mostly a miss on the “Hit or miss” scale of things. Helping Spencer is the script’s desire to tell her story and give her plenty of depth to build and work off of. At bare minimum, the film gets a recommendation on her alone.

Aside from some nice actors in smaller roles (Juliette Lewis, Luke Evans), I found myself sort of bored with a lot of Ma’s shenanigans. A lot of it plays to being expected and falls into a mostly predictable palette. It does well with some good jumps and shocks. Allison Janney provides a nice humor relief every once in a while and I honestly could have just watched a movie about Ma and her boss doing day to day happenings at the vet. Maybe I’m aged out (Though I watch a lot of horror movies for all aged and do still enjoy them, so I don’t think this is the case), but I just had a hard time enjoying scenes with just the core kids’ group and no Ma.

Ma has some great character strengths to it while also just being sort of average at the same time. Its not bad, its not great, its the perfect representation of a nice, solid rental and one that is sure discussion worthy with other friends that have seen it. It carries enough horror surprise moments and a strong turn by Octavia Spencer to warrant your time and especially in the home setting.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Ma arrives on Blu-ray from Universal with a pretty solid picture, though nothing really too spectacular. With how dark this movie is in its overall appearance, its a wonder why Ma wasn’t released on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. That would have enriched and helped out many scenes where the black levels feel like they’ve been brightened up too much. Regardless, the film has some good sharpness to it and includes plenty of rich details to fill the image.

Depth:  Solid depth work here, many of the interiors have some good layering and staggering of characters, objects and such that keep it looking layered. Movements are natural and smooth, with no real issues concerning motion distortion.

Black Levels: Blacks are very more on the lighter, grayer end of things. Details aren’t swallowed whole, and most come through on surfaces, clothing and hair. I did notice some light crushing in places, but nothing problematic enough to deter from viewing enjoyment.

Color Reproduction: Colors are a little bit on the washed out look, but do look at bit more bold and rich during the party sequences in Ma’s basement. Fire and blood related colors are a bit more striking than others.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a hair washed out and cool looking for the duration of the film. Facial features like moles, wrinkles, makeup, gore effects and more come through pretty clearly in medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS, Spanish 5.1 DTS

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Ma comes with a really nice and playful 5.1 mix that is strategically designed to emphasize and play big on the horror elements in the movie. The film’s surround is intentionally designed to have a little bit lower of a default because everything that will give a greater impact is set right on point. This would likely have one turning it up a little louder only to be tricked when they jump out of their seat as something loud hits (Yes, an early moment in the film got me, congrats). The mix is a playful one and optimizes well if you’re looking for you receiver (If set up that way) to simulate an Atmos mix for it.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Here we have a LFE portion of the mix that both hits when it counts and also plays a lot softer than you’d expect in many moments. It probably has to do with the “horror mix” I mentioned, but one moment you’d think the music could bump a little bit harder but then Octavia Spencer knocking on a car window jumps you out of your seat.

Surround Sound Presentation: There’s a lot of fun play going on here speaker to speaker, especially with the party sequences as the track enjoys playing with the mix of the loud songs. Other good things that come are sounds like a dog barking or Allison Janney yelling from another room or mischievous happenings on an upper level of Ma’s house.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with good attention to mouth sounds and diction.

Extras 

Ma comes with the DVD version and a digital copy of the film.

Alternate Ending (HD, 2:01)

Deleted Scenes (HD, 11:23)

Creating Sue Ann (HD, 2:50) – “You’ve never seen me in a role like this” Octavia Spencer proclaims as she kind of goes over the basics of the character along with Jason Blum, Tate Taylor and others.

Party at Ma’s (HD, 3:53) – Cast and crew go through a brief brush of the making of the film and behind the scenes.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:34) 

Summary 

Ma is a pretty solid watch on the rental night kind of level. Octavia Spencer is (No surprise) terrific and having a lot of fun chewing up scenery. Universal’s Blu-ray release is a solid package with good audio and video, some nice deleted/alternate moments and some decent generic EPK-type featurettes. I highly recommend a rental if you haven’t seen it, and if you’re a fan, if you can wait for the inevitable $9.99 price drop, it’s well worth that kind of deal.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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