The Reel Review
Octavia Spencer stars in this horror/thriller about a lonely middle-aged woman who befriends a group of teenagers in her small town in Ohio, offering them the use of the basement in her house as an underage party hangout. When the kids realize Ma is a crazy stalker, they try to distance themselves from her – but crazy ass Ma is a loon with a plan. She is not going to let that happen.
Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures) does an excellent job juxtaposing what at first seems like an extremely fun, likable character with some truly terrifyingly dark mood swings to create a more disturbing, realistic character not typically found in the more typical Blumhouse horror films. And the supporting cast – Diana Silvers (Booksmart), Juliette Lewis and Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast) – help inject the story with a healthy dose of believability, with Allison Janney delivering some pretty well placed comic relief as Ma’s cranky veterinarian boss. Director Tate Taylor (The Help) even has a nice cameo role as the sheriff.
While much of the film relies on stereotypical, one-dimensional characters (the nice new girl, the smart-mouthed slut, the nerd, the jock, etc.) and worn-out horror tropes, some fun plot twists, suspense and even a few laughs keep it entertaining and somewhat believable, up until the completely ridiculous, off-the-rails, letdown of an ending.
• Ma is an onscreen reunion of 2011’s The Help – director Tate Taylor, his long-term friend Octavia Spencer (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film) and Allison Janney
• Tate Taylor and Luke Evans worked together in the 2016 thriller, The Girl on The Train.
• Although set in Ohio, Ma was filmed in and around Natchez, Mississippi, just a few miles south of the home of its director, Tate Taylor.