Ma is much more of a straight horror movie but it has a lot in common with the _____ from Hell movies I love so much. Ma doesn’t fit into a box as neat as Nanny from Hell or Roommate from Hell, but I guess she could be Maternal Figure From Hell.
Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) agrees to buy alcohol for Maggie (Diana Silvers) and her friends Andy (Corey Fogelmanis), Haley (McKaley Miller), Chaz (Gianni Paolo) and Darrell (Dante Brown). She even invites them to hang out in her basement so they don’t drink and drive.
They call Sue Ann Ma and there’s a section of the movie where she’s too good to be true. She makes them snacks, covers for them and the parties get bigger and bigger.
There are some signs she’s crazy along the way, but you could excuse it as she’s messing with them and trying to fit in. She could just be a lonely woman who wants a connection. Ma is endearing herself as the cool adult.
Of course, this is a horror movie and Ma is a bit too much. It’s not a high body count movie, but it’s very creepy. Ma starts acting like a needy ex with too many texts, and starts pressuring the kids to drink on school nights.
Spencer certainly elevates the role. Ma wouldn’t work at all unless she was convincing on every level, the sympathetic needy person and the bonkers crazy killer. Spencer is both and everything in between.
The young cast hold their own against her too. Each character sort of has a type to play. Haley is the popular mean girl, Chaz is the douche, and sorry but Darrell is the token black guy even in a movie with an African-American villain.
The actors embrace those roles in the teen drama of it all, which is also a vital part of making horror work. By the time Ma really goes crazy, you’re invested in the group and rooting for them to survive Ma’s manipulative tortures, and warning them not to go in there.
There’s plenty in Ma to make you squirm, but that’s only effective because you believe Spencer and you believe those kids are really in trouble. Their parents are too. You may think she’s The Help at first but you do not want to accept any help from this helper. You’re welcome, Tate Taylor.
Ma opens Friday, May 31.