A group of teens, sitting in the parking lot of a liquor store, take turns trying to get adult strangers to buy alcohol for them. Finally, Maggie (Diana Silvers) the newest member of the group convinces a local veterinarian tech, Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) to make the purchase for them. A few days later, Sue Ann does it again. This time she invites them to hang out at her house and tells them to call her “Ma.” At first it seems too good to be true: being able to have Ma buy them booze and drink in the comfort of her basement that she even renovates for them. However, soon they learn this Ma is not the nurturer they thought she was. Her generosity is all part of a much larger and devious plan.
Ma, while she has her flaws, entertains. It gets a See It! rating. Octavia Spencer dominates in the leading role. And if she doesn’t, this film doesn’t work. As the center of the story, she embodies the full range of necessary emotions and behaviors. She’s warm, cold, hostile, perverse, sympathetic and of course, evil. She’s the complex yet sympathetic villain. Approaching middle age, she harbors some long-simmering resentments going back to her high school days. Having been in the same town as her former classmates for decades, it’s not fully explained what suddenly sets her off.
The rest of the cast, led by veteran actor, Juliette Lewis, is more than adequate in their various supporting roles.
The story is by Scotty Landes who co-wrote the screenplay with director Tate Taylor. They have to receive some credit for not having the usual absurd character reactions and behaviors usually associated with horror films. (There’s no going into a dark scary room, for example, where others have disappeared when logic dictates getting the hell out of there!)
One leap that writers take is with Ma’s lifestyle. She’s a vet tech in a small Ohio town. But not only does she have a nice home, as mentioned, she remodels her basement and dishes out large sums of money to make sure there’s always plenty to drink. Again, all on a vet tech’s salary. (Fun fact: The film, set in Ohio, was actually shot in Mississippi.)
“Ma” gets an “A” for cast diversity, scoring major points with an African-American actress in the lead role in a horror film which in itself is unusual. Black actors Dante Brown and Tanyell Waivers have major supporting roles. Considering this is small town Ohio, the high school scenes are appropriately diverse.
At a budget of a measly (in film making terms) $5 million, “Ma” is bound to make money.
It’s rated R and is 99 minutes in length and you should See It!