A group of teenagers are befriended by a woman, who lets them hang out in her basement. However, they begin to suspect that Sue Ann, or Ma as she lets them call her, has secrets of her own…
Blumhouse are one of my favourite film production companies. With films like The Purge series, Sinister, Get Out, Happy Death Day and many others they have made a number of really good horror/thrillers. There have been occasional misfires, but their standard has often been high.
Which is why Ma is such a disappointment.
When I saw the trailer, I was expecting a film about a disturbed woman who for her own reasons targeted teenagers. While there is aspects of that here, to give the film credit, there is much more going on here.
As the story progresses, we get flashbacks to when Sue Ann was a teenager and what happened to her and the humiliation she suffered from classmates. These scenes do give her character a bit more depth, but it still feels something is missing. The fact that she has a daughter herself, would suggest she recovered from it to a degree, so why act the way she does now? One can’t escape the feeling the script by Scotty Landes has either been re-written or some aspects of the story have been dropped or edited out. The reason I think this, is that there are a number of coincidences in the story, in relation to characters, which makes me think either this was added later in the day, but never fully developed, or instead, something already there and then under developed. It could have made the film much better and possibly darker too.
And that is a shame as Octavia Spencer as Sue Ann is terrific. She is clearly having a blast in the role. That said, it is also the best written role in the film. Luke Evans and Juliette Lewis have thankless roles as parents of two of the teens involved, that have ties to Sue Ann themselves. As far as the teens go, Diana Silvers, McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, Gianni Paolo and Dante Brown are your usual bunch of cliched teens and really don’t get much chance to develop their characters at all.
Director Tate Taylor does what he can, but there is no tension and worse, no surprises here at all. Part of that has to go down to the trailer, which I do think is too revealing, but you can see where this is going long before it gets there.
There’s no sense of fun here which might have overcome a number of story issues. It’s played too straight. It’s not the cast’s fault, but it’s the script and story to blame for that. There’s also a moment towards the end really annoyed the hell out of me.
Octavia Spencer’s performance aside, there is really little to recommend here.
Certainly Blumhouse’s worst film for some time.
Rating: ** out of 5