ma | tate taylor | scotty landes | octavia spencer | diana silvers | juliette lewis | thriller | united states | mckaley miller | corey fogelmanis | gianni paolo | dante brown | tanyell waivers | luke evans | dominic burgess | missi pyle | allison janney
Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Scotty Landes
Starring: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers and Juliette Lewis
This was a film that I had seen a few trailers for and I was intrigued to check it out. I’ve seen most films that come from Blumhouse, so this was another that I put on my list. I was even more interested when listening to a podcast the morning I checked it out with a producer on the film saying that it had some aspects that people didn’t necessarily see coming. That first time was at the Gateway Film Center and then a rewatch for the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis is a lonely woman befriends a group of teenagers and decides to let them party at her house. Just when the kids think their luck couldn’t get any better, things start happening that make them question the intention of their host.
We start this off with a mother, Erica (Juliette Lewis), moving back to her hometown with her daughter Maggie (Diana Silvers). Her marriage fell apart and they are trying to make a new life for themselves. Erica gets a job at the local casino as a server. Her daughter must start school in the middle of the year.
Maggie goes to school and a boy makes eyes at her at once. His name Andy (Corey Fogelmanis), but he is talking with his friends. At lunch, she is approached by Haley (McKaley Miller), her boyfriend Chaz (Gianni Paolo), their friend Darrell (Dante Brown) as well as Andy. Haley puts her number in Maggie’s phone and invites her to a party the following day. She has to decline as she is supposed to hang out with her mother.
That plan falls through when she picks up a shift at work. Maggie joins her new friends as they try to buy alcohol. The party is canceled so they are going to go to a local rock quarry instead. They struggle to get booze when Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) walks by. The name on Andy’s van catches her eye and she buys them stuff.
They go back to her again to do the same thing, but she convinces them to drink in her basement. She just has a couple rules, which includes staying in the basement. They all have a good time, but Sue Ann is a bit off. She is dubbed Ma and she even likes it. Her basement becomes the new drinking spot in town.
As Ma becomes more needy, we see there is a bit of history in this town and that it really has scarred her. Maggie doesn’t want to go there anymore, but no matter what they do, Ma keeps showing up in their lives.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap as I feel that fleshes things out a bit more. I was a bit leery about this film and wanted to see it to make my mind up. I have to admit, I was surprised. I will watch most everything that Blumhouse pictures does, but I do have to admit, they have really been directing a lot of their films toward teens so I was glad to see this one going R-rated. It ends up places that I wasn’t expecting.
As I kind of pointed out earlier, this film is deeper than I thought it was going to be. We do get that aspect of the film where Ma is becoming very needy. It is creepy since these are all high school kids. There is a deeper story here though that makes sense and it actually makes her a bit of a tragic character, despite how psychotic she is. What makes it interesting as well is that it is misguided. We are seeing the effects of bullying and what it can have on people. Ma never got over what happened to her. She is harboring hatred. She is also manifesting this onto her daughter, Genie (Tanyell Waivers), as well.
For films like this, I do like that they incorporate not telling your parents things for fear of being in trouble. It makes me think back to when I was younger and the things, I would keep to myself for this reason. I do have to say though; these teens are a bit overdone. The hard liquor they are drinking with no problem isn’t believable. This is kind of a minor aspect, but it was something I did notice. Other than that, I think their personality is fitting for the generation.
Something I was impressed with was the pacing. It runs under 100 minutes and I never found myself bored. The other teens befriending Maggie happens a bit quick, but I’m fine not seeing her as a loner for too long. I do think that the tension builds at a solid clip and how things payoff was solid as well. I wasn’t expecting the climax to go where it did and I was down for it.
To the acting of the film, I have to give it to Spencer. She killed this role. I know she is a really good actress, but I love the range of emotions we get from her. She is tragic in dealing with the aspects of her past. I felt bad for her is that she is living through these teens. She is also scary when she snaps. She shifts through these in short time, which was impressive too. It is good to see a woman like her being the villain, but not one that we completely despise. I thought Silvers was solid. I’m not the biggest Lewis fan, but she did fine. Miller stole my heart in this film though. She is quirky and I found to be quite cute. She does talk too much though; I will say that. The other teens are solid. It was fun to see Luke Evans as Andy’s father as well as Missi Pyle and Allison Janney making appearances. I think that the cast did really well and rounded out the film for what was needed.
To finish out this review, I’ll got to the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. I didn’t realize it was rated R and it didn’t necessarily need it until the beginning of the third act. I have to say that the effects used looked to be practical and some of them actually had me cringing. There’s not a lot, but definitely what we got was good. The cinematography is solid as well. We get some things that are edited together to raise tension which works. As for the soundtrack, there’s a lot of older music that is playing at Ma’s that I thought was a good touch. It is funny, because it is mostly from her era which would make sense. I do think we get some more mood setting songs as well, which definitely fit and help build the tension. I do think overall it is fine for what they were going for.
Now with that said, I enjoy this film. What I saw from the trailers, I definitely had in mind what I thought this film would be. I got that, but it goes deeper in the story for sure. I think that the acting helps bring that to life as well. Spencer was great and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed. It is paced well and builds tension to a good climax. I wasn’t expecting the effects we got so that helped the film. The soundtrack was also solid in my opinion. I would definitely recommend giving this film a viewing as I feel this is a good film.
My Rating: 8 out of 10