“Get Home Safe” is the tagline for this new psychological horror venture from the director of The Help and The Girl on the Train which is a little wild and crazy (especially near the conclusion) as well as distracted. The hot-button topic on its mind is what our First Lady is an advocate against as she espouses “Be Kind To Each Other.”
Tate Taylor’s Ma has Octavia Spencer who played Minny Jackson (with those flavorful pies) for Taylor in his 2011 Civil Rights drama to an Oscar win (and more success, i.e., Hidden Figures) finally is top-billed and her unbalanced verve will elicit chills and leave some in stitches (pun intended).
But, the picture has a teen protagonist in impressionable teen Maggie (Diana Silvers of Booksmart which was overwhelmed this past holiday weekend at the box-office) who relocates with her concerned, if pointed single mother (Juliette Lewis of August: Osage County, Conviction) to a typical Midwestern enclave. As the 16-year-old takes up with recalcitrant types like Hayley (McKaley Miller of The Iceman) Spencer’s solitary veterinary aid in scrubs Sue Ann steers them from local drinking hangout The Rock Pile to her mildewed basement. She’s the conduit for their recreation fondly looking back at her own younger days being their eponymous party-giver with certain rules (no cursing, no going upstairs). Even with a little insinuation this isn’t encroaching on Get Out territory.
Burrowing into a mad mind isn’t what scribe Scotty Landes had in mind for Spencer perhaps understating her more menacing, sadistic turns (as a hot iron, e.g., will come into play) in an occasionally creative, but finally conventional B-movie. What lies beneath Sue Ann’s hip empathetic persona is palpable in the contusions and peril beginning to simmer (as flashbacks indicate what happened in her formative years). Besides Lewis’s Skyler there is Ben, a ne’er-do-well Luke Evans of The Hobbit movies and the recent live-action Beauty & The Beast. A brief, but acerbic appearance by Alison Janney as a peevish boss, as well as Taylor as a flinty cop work to complement the lead with her darkly-coiffed bangs.
Traversing genres for Spencer and Taylor may have older viewers pining for the likes of Misery and Carrie with venomous mayhem pervading from frustration stirring the kettle of this Ma which even in its guilty-pleasure fervor doesn’t really buy into the sound and fury of an obsession with high-school partiers.