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This Is What Makes Sue Ann from ‘Ma’ a Terrifying Yet Loveable Horror Villain

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As a horror fanatic, I’m deeply intrigued by complex characters that blur the lines between good and bad. Sue Anne, the villain in Ma (2019), is a perfect example. Not only is she multifaceted and intriguing, but she is also deeply sympathetic. If you know horror well, you know black women are underrepresented as protagonists, let alone titular villains, making the film all the more exciting.  Octavia Spencer’s performance makes this film unforgettable and propelled Sue Ann’s character to the ranks of supreme horror badass.

When high school student Maggie Thompson (Diana Silvers) moves to a small town and enrolls in a new high school in the middle of the semester, she is anxious to make friends. Luckily for her, she falls in with a crowd of cool kids who love to drink and get high. The only problem is that they have nowhere to party and can’t legally buy alcohol. Once the teenagers come across Sue Ann Ellington (Octavia Spencer) and convince her to buy them booze, it isn’t long before the whole school is partying in Ma’s basement.

As we get to know Sue Ann and watch her stalk the teenagers and their parents on social media, we start to feel uneasy about her intentions. Sue Ann only ever decided to engage with the teenagers when she realized Andy Hawkins (Corey Fogelmanis), one of the kids, was the son of Ben Hawkins (Luke Evans), an old crush. The audience learns about Ben and Sue Ann’s past through a series of flashbacks to their own high school days.

It turns out, Ben and Mercedes (Missi Pyle), a popular girl and his girlfriend in the present day, publicly humiliated Sue Ann when they were teens. They told her to meet Ben in the janitor’s closet to hook up. She showed up and performed oral sex on her awaiting crush. However, when they exited the closet, Sue Ann learned that it was actually not Ben at all and instead was a random classmate while the whole school clustered around to mock her.

At first, Sue Ann hangs out with the children of her old bullies because she desperately wants to feel included. But as the story unfolds, the teens begin to question whether partying at Ma’s house is truly safe. That’s when Ma’s past truly begins to haunt her—she feels like an outcast, a loser, and she’s starting to believe that’s all she ever was or ever will be. Unless she acts.

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Sue Ann’s spiral into sinister behavior is compelling and even satisfying because many of us can relate. You can’t tell me that when you watched that iconic scene when Sue Ann crushes Mercedes with her car before muttering, “fucking cunt,” that you didn’t feel a swoop of menacing joy at the thought of that bully getting smooshed like roadkill.

While all of that makes Sue Ann very sympathetic, parts of her character leave a bad taste in the viewers’ mouth. When it’s revealed that Sue Ann has a daughter (Tanyell Waivers) that she keeps trapped in the house, drugged up, and forced to use a wheelchair when she can walk, the audience starts to realize that Sue Ann’s intentions are sour.

The complexity of Sue Ann’s character is ultimately why we love her and why she is such an iconic horror villain. She faces brutal, racist bullying from her white classmates, yet she overpowers her daughter to make her feel bigger. She blurs the lines between good and bad, between sympathetic and evil. In my humble opinion, those qualities truly make an iconic villain.

Of course, I can’t complete this article without discussing Octavia Spencer’s outstanding performance. Sue Ann was originally written as a white character, so when Octavia Spencer took the titular role, the story changed immensely because of the added layer of racism woven into the film. On top of that, Spencer is incredibly talented at portraying a complex character who delves deeper into madness as the story unfolds.

Sue Ann’s character is simultaneously deeply loveable yet utterly terrifying. Her backstory and Spencer’s impeccable acting talents make this film memorable and watch-worthy. Sue Ann is a character that truly makes you think about how we treat others and the fatal repercussions of racism and bullying.

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Even if you’re not sure you love Sue Ann, you can’t deny that she is a badass. She never allows fear to stand in her way, and she manages to crush her two biggest enemies before the movie ends. If you’re like me, you desperately wish Sue Ann had the chance to thrive and live a happy life, but this badass woman had to fend for herself. I don’t know about you, but I think that her determination is admirable as hell.

 

Hey! I’m Maya, a snarky, queer freelance writer, horror enthusiast, and history nerd. My hope is that my writing both entertains my readers and provides educational commentary on human behavior & society. In my spare time, I love to eat food, hang out with my girlfriend, and needle felt little monster sculptures.

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Editorials

Black Witches Exist.

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If you ask any Black woman horror fan who their favorite Black witch is, I’d bet all the money I don’t have, that most—if not all—of them would say Rachel True’s Rochelle in The Craft. And what’s not to love about Rochelle? She’s delightfully weird, supportive of her friends, and perseveres in the face of racism much like we do in similar predominately white spaces.

But The Craft is 26 years old. Even though we were blessed with a reboot in 2020, I expected the beloved cult classic to produce more Black Witches to bring into our Coven of Black Girl Magic.

Hell, I don’t even think the two Black actresses that portrayed Angelina Johnson in the Harry Potter movie franchise ever had any lines. And while the Broadway production of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child made history by casting Black actresses to play Hermione, I do take issue with a beloved (and Black-coded) character being depicted as a cruel time-warp-multiverse version. (I’m sorry, but I came here to fight and tell you there is NO universe in which the only character committed to emancipating the magical slaves/house elves would ever turn out to be a cruel professor in her worst subject!)

Even most of the magical Black characters I’ve tried to include in this piece actually practiced Hoodoo or Voodoo.  There’s been a dearth of Black witches on the silver screen and in the horror genre, and it leaves me wanting more. White witches have depth and complexity to them. They can be good or evil, sensual and alluring, motherly, or even cycle through all of the above. Black witches are either nonexistent, relegated to a mammy role to aid a white protagonist, or their witchcraft is conflated with Hoodoo or Voodoo.

Voodoo is actually an organized religion with deep ties to African culture and American slave practices. Hoodoo is considered to be a folk magic that is also connected to the African Diaspora. Hoodoo is more similar to how witchcraft is depicted and is known for spells connected to practical needs, like love and money. Both Hoodoo and Voodoo are incredibly nuanced and highly regarded practices in Black culture, but in less diverse production spaces, depictions of Hoodoo and Voodoo from a colonizer’s gaze can be, well, racist and reductive.

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One could argue that Black witches have representation through depictions of Hoodoo and Voodoo on the silver screen, my favorite being the beautiful southern gothic film Eve’s Bayou. But overall, we deserve to see more expansive and nuanced Black Girl Magic on screen.

So here I am wondering, where are all the Black witches?

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WELCOME TO THE CHURCH OF CHUCKY: Chucky Season 2 Full Trailer Breakdown, Theories & Predictions

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Forget the Season of the Witch. It’s the Season of the Dolls again.

I mean it might as well be, September is the new October, which means Halloween is basically tomorrow. And with the arrival of the spooky season comes the second season of SYFY’s instant hit and continuation of the Child’s Play series, Chucky. Since it’s returning on October 5th, this is pretty much all I’m going to be talking about for a few months, so why don’t we speculate on the incoming eight episodes of bombshells Don Mancini will be hitting us with soon?

BLOODY REUNIONS

The teaser trailer that premiered at San Diego Comic Con and the full trailer above that just recently dropped all but confirms this leaked list of episode titles that has been floating around, given they’re laden with religious references we’ll cover soon. The titles give a rough idea of what might happen with the Chucky and Tiffany dolls back on the saddle.

While the episode “Doll on Doll” could be about the myriad of Chucky dolls running around, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an episode focused on Doll Tiffany going up against Chucky. Since the schism between Team Ray and Team Valentine from season 1’s gnarly decapitation, Tiffany’s plastic iteration would probably find herself in conflict with her old lover after kidnapping Nica and cutting herself out of their deranged master plan to attack all of America.

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Temporarily, at least. Given their torrid romantic history and Tiffany’s obsession with starting and preserving a family, it’d be on brand that the episode “Goin’ To The Chapel” may just involve them renewing their vows, with the Bride and groom reuniting to cause terror once more.

SAINTS, SINNERS, AND SILICON

So, what about location then? Well, with all we’ve seen of Jake, Devon, & Lexy’s matching school uniforms, the episode titles, and all the religious décor/symbology all over the place, it’s safe to say the series is finally taking the leap and sending Chucky into outer space.

…Jokes people. I’ll be here all week.

The latest trailer tells us the school is called Incarnate Lord (Academy?) and seems to be a Catholic boarding school for reforming disturbed youth. This is likely an homage to Childs Play 3 but riffing on the humor of private schools rather than military academies. Mancini may have been inspired to use this location because he also went to a Christian prep school when he was younger, a lesser-known detail mentioned in an interview with Dread Central.

With legal custody of Jake & Devon up in the air following their respective parents perishing, and their dubious involvement in dozens of people dying a year prior, it looks like the trio is being sent to an institution by the state– possibly at the behest of Mayor Cross, Lexi’s mother, instead of seeing the kids jailed. Given the chaos caused by Chucky in the season finale, it’s fair that she’d send the boys and her distraught daughter to a boarding school for their protection, hoping to distance them from the massacre. On the topic of troubled daughters…

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PUTTING LEXY THROUGH THE RINGER

Maybe stating the obvious here, but Lexy is going through it this season, even more so than last. One of the shots in the teaser trailer heavily implies she’s doing drugs to cope with the stress and trauma of Chucky’s massacre. But I think there might be even more reason she’s down and out.

We saw younger sister Caroline opening the door for Chucky in the teaser, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Chucky’s first act of retribution against the Hackensack gang would be taking her out, or at least attempting to. It would also make sense to get them out of town as an inciting incident if the one-year time skip they mention means something has to break the relative peace in Hackensack.

For anybody skeptical about this, given it’s a very dark train of thought, remember that one of the series protagonists, Nica Pierce, had all her limbs cut off in the Season 1 finale and is currently being wheeled around by Tiffany. A tonal shift seems like just the thing Mancini might have hinted at with Nica’s cruel entrapment.

…Bummer. How about a joke to lighten the mood?

HOW DO NONBINARY SLASHERS OFF SOMEONE?

They/Them! And the they & them slashing in question would be the doll in two persons, Glen & Glenda, who is back after a long absence in the series (and seems delighted at the updates in their mother’s love-life/murder sprees). Hopefully, I will finally get a serious answer to my question of whether G&G have an explosives dealer! It seems doubly likely now that we see Chucky using a (stolen?) chemical explosive in the final shots of the full trailer…

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Portrayed in a double role by Lachlan Watson, former Chilling Adventures of Sabrina star, these two are more likely than not going to be blending into the school as delinquents and aiding one or more of the Chucky dolls in their rampage. But I think that one of the two could also be a new protagonist in the making.

Though the plot point fell by the wayside for doll martial arts in Seed of Chucky, it was clear that a part of Glen/da has a distaste for killing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the two halves of Glen/da ended up feuding and making enemies out of each other. One of the big themes of Chucky as a rare coming-of-age horror is that you’ve sometimes got to reject the roles placed onto you by your parents, so it’d track if Tiffany’s twin terrors end up against themselves.

Suppose one half doesn’t become wholly good, however. In that case, there’s the distinct possibility they might end up taking sides with their respective favored parents and getting dragged into a messy “divorce” and the couple’s endless doll wars. Speaking of people who got dragged into that war,

REST IN PEACE, KYLE…

But not really. At least, I don’t think so. Even though Andy screams “This is for Kyle!” while presumably facing off with an unseen Tiffany or Chucky in the trailer, she seemingly survived the bomb blast from “An Affair to Dismember” and was hinted to be watching over the kids, the final shot of the first season being her hand gripping a tree with the black leather gloves gifted to her by Andy at the gas station.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy. With Christine Elise confirmed to be back for an unspecified number of episodes, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyle is another dormant victim of possession like Nica, and that Tiffany may have done another soul split bamboozle. Not only would it give Tiffany a leg up against Andy & Chucky, but it would also mean that the kids would have to deal with their former protector turning heel.

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Regardless of how many of these darts land on the bullseye, I’m unflinchingly hyped for Season 2 of Chucky. Until then, I ask the question: do you have any pet theories you’ve been sitting on? Tell us on Twitter & comment down below, and as always, stay tuned for more horrifying content from Horror Press.

Chucky season 2 will premiere on USA and Syfy on October 5th.

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