A group of friends befriend a middle-aged black woman with sinister intentions in Ma. Maggie (Diana Silvers) is a teenager, who has moved to small town, where her mother Erica (Juliette Lewis) grew up. At school, Maggie quickly befriends Haley (McKaley Miller), Andy (Corey Fogelmanis), Chaz (Gianni Paolo), and Darrell (Dante Brown), who invite Maggie to go party. On the way, they ask veterinary assistant Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) to buy the teens alcohol. Nicknamed “Ma” by the teens, Sue Ann allows the friends to party in her basement, though gives explicit instructions not to go upstairs. However, it isn’t long before Maggie begins to clue into the fact that Ma’s intentions might not be genuine.
Octavia Spencer reunited with director Tate Taylor (The Help) for this horror film about a middle-aged woman, who becomes obsessed with a group of teens. It soon becomes apparent, that Sue Ann’s obsession with these teenagers stems from a traumatic experience she had in high school, particularly involving Andy’s father Ben (Luke Evans) and his girlfriend Mercedes (Missi Pyle). It is not long until Maggie and her other friends are creeped out by Ma’s obsessive behaviour, which results in Sue Ann responding with violence.
It is obvious that Ma is a film that Blumhouse Productions is trying to use to ride off the coattails of the success Jordan Peele had with his films Get Out and Us. However, Ma’s themes of a bullied social outcast seeking revenge are buried within a rather schlocky and cliched horror film. It is really hard to place sympathies towards the characters in Ma since on one hand, you can argue that the teens are getting what’s coming to them, yet you end up being shocked and disgusted by Sue Ann’s psychotic behaviour.
Despite the film itself being quite mediocre, I do have to admit that Octavia Spencer goes all in with what I believe is her first villainous film role. The film also features a standout appearance by Allison Janney, in what is essentially an extended cameo as Sue Ann’s boss Dr. Brooks. Various flashbacks peppered throughout the film seemed designed to try and get you to feel some sort of empathy for Sue Ann. However, it is quite obvious from the start that she is not mentally stable and even with a history of bullying, you are never really able to root for her.
If it was better written and actually directed by someone like Jordon Peele, who has an understanding of how to use the horror genre to tackle social issues, Ma might have been a film within promise. However, as it stands, the film is a complete mess.