Ma – While I knew this was a horror movie, I didn’t know exactly what the horrific part was. I just knew it was about a middle-aged woman, played by Octavia Spencer, who bought booze for teenagers and let them party in her basement. It’s later revealed that, back in high school, she had a crush on a jerky guy who humiliated her in front of the whole school, and one of the kids she’s buying drinks for is his son. Since the back story is only revealed a little at a time, it makes her seem sympathetic at first, but gradually exposes how crazy she is. There’s a bit where the two main girls find something disturbing in her room, but the audience doesn’t find out what it is until much later. Ma, whose real name is Sue Ann, is also abusive to her own daughter, in a Munchhausen’s by Proxy kind of way. One thing I thought was interesting was that, as lame as some of the teenage characters were with their constant drinking and partying, they did seem pretty inclusive; even the less popular kids were invited to the parties. Is the message that teenagers are nicer now (which I doubt), or just that, even if Ma deserves revenge, there’s no reason to take it out on her old classmates’ kids who aren’t much like their parents.
Prom Night – Made in Canada, it’s a slasher movie with a pretty low budget that achieved box office success. Jamie Lee Curtis stars in it, as does Leslie Nielsen. It starts with some kids playing in an abandoned convent, and they decide to torture another kid, Robin Hammond, who ends up falling out a window and dying. The kids vow never to tell what happened, which might make some sense in kid thinking, even though it was accidental and they wouldn’t be tried as adults. A sex offender ends up being convicted of the crime. Nielsen plays the father of the girl who dies, who’s also the high school principal. This was around the same time he was in Airplane!, his first comedy role. Curtis plays the girl’s sister. Ten years later, the anniversary of the death happens to fall on the same day as the prom, and Curtis is the prom queen. The kids who scared Robin to death are all attending, and they receive threatening phone calls, then come up against a masked guy with a hatchet at the school. And that’s about it, really. The main story is serviceable enough, with some mystery as to who the killer is, but there were some subplots that more or less blew past me. The director, Paul Lynch, mostly did television, but his name makes me wonder what a combination of Paul Lynde and David Lynch would be like.