Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tate Taylor|
|Screenplay by||Scotty Landes|
|Story by||Scotty Landes|
|Music by||Gregory Tripi|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$60.6 million|
Ma is a 2019 American psychological horror film produced, co-written and directed by Tate Taylor. It stars Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, Diana Silvers, McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, and Luke Evans, and follows a group of teenagers who befriend a lonely middle-aged woman. She lets them party in her basement, and they end up being terrorized by her. The film was produced by Jason Blum through his Blumhouse Productions company, along with Taylor and John Norris.
Initially, Ma came together as a result of Taylor's desire to direct a film about "something fucked up," and a conversation he had with actress Spencer. Taylor and Spencer are longtime friends, having worked together in films such as The Help and Get on Up. Later, in 2018, Taylor and Blumhouse Productions began developing the film, with Taylor directing, Landes writing, Blum producing and Spencer starring it. Principal photography on the film started in February 2018 and wrapped in March 2018, in Mississippi, with parts shot in Natchez.
Ma was released in the United States on May 31, 2019, by Universal Pictures. It has grossed $60.6 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the atmosphere, the horror elements and Spencer's performance, but criticized the teenage characters, slow pacing and story. Both critics and audiences said the film did not take full advantage of its premise.
Teenager Maggie Thompson moves with her mother Erica to her Ohio hometown after Erica’s husband leaves her. At her new high school, Maggie befriends Haley, Darrell, Chaz, and Andy, who immediately develops a crush on her. They convince Sue Ann Ellington, a veterinary technician, to help them buy alcohol. Sue Ann anonymously reports the teens' activities, but they're released because of the officer's history with Andy's dad, Ben. The next day, Sue Ann invites the teens to drink in her basement. The next time they go, Sue Ann has decorated her basement and lots of other teens show up at her house to party, making her popular among the students.
However, her hospitality starts to annoy the group as she continuously harasses them to engage in various activities with her. One night Sue Ann sees Andy and Maggie kissing and gets jealous (as she is in love with him due to being Ben’s son). She drugs Maggie immediately after and takes her earrings. The next morning Maggie wakes up and notices her earrings are missing and is badly bruised and cut. Scared, Maggie tells Andy that she does not want to go to her house anymore and that she does not want him to go as well and he agrees.
One day to earn the group’s trust back, Ma meets with them to tell them that she has cancer (which is a lie) and that is why she acts the way she does. As she is talking, Haley notices that she is wearing a bracelet that belongs to a friend of theirs. The girls suspect that Sue Ann has been stealing their jewelry so they go to her house to investigate. They are surprised by Genie, Sue Ann's daughter from a failed marriage, who Maggie thought used a wheelchair, but she's clearly able-bodied. She warns them as Sue Ann arrives home, and they narrowly escape.
Ben warns Sue Ann to stay away from Andy, calling her pathetic. A flashback reveals that Sue Ann, who had a crush on Ben in high school, performed fellatio on him in a closet. Once she left the closet, it turned out that she'd been doing it to someone else and Ben had tricked her. Ben had gotten the entire school to witness the event (including his current girlfriend Mercedes and a young Erica), and Sue Ann suffered devastating humiliation, which she never recovered from.
An increasingly-unstable Sue Ann runs over Mercedes with her truck, killing her. She kills her boss, draws blood from Maggie's dog Louie, and lures Ben to her house, where she knocks him out. Ben wakes up trapped in her bed; Sue Ann pumps Louie's blood into his body, slashes his wrist, and leaves him to die. Maggie tells her mom the truth about Sue Ann and is grounded. Ma sends Maggie a picture of herself with Andy in her basement at Chaz’s birthday party. Hurt that he went back to her house despite promising that he would not go back, she sneaks out of the house to confront him. When she arrives she notices that everyone has left and that only the original group remain. She tries to get Andy to leave but soon realizes that Andy and the rest of her friends have been drugged. Maggie tries to get help and in the process finds Ben’s body. As she stands there in horror, Sue Ann knocks her unconscious.
Maggie awakens chained in the basement. Sue Ann irons Chaz's stomach, sews Haley's mouth shut, and paints Darrell's face white with industrial paint, because she feels there is only room for one Black Queen, and that is her. Andy awakens, and tries to seduce Sue Ann, as he is well aware that she is in love with him. He tries to trick her by telling her that he loves her and kisses her but she stabs him after knowing that he is lying. An officer arrives and when Maggie screams for help, Sue Ann shoots the officer dead before he can react. She then gathers the four friends around the couch with her and makes Maggie take photos of them together in a crude recreation of what Sue-Ann always longed for but never had. Sue Ann then leaves Maggie to be hanged before Genie intervenes. Everyone else wakes up to discover what Sue Ann has done to them but barely have time to react as the house is on fire and need to find a way out. Erica, knowing where Maggie would be calls her coworker Stu for help and the two save the teens. Sue Ann attempts to throw Genie into the fire, blaming Erica for not stopping Ben from pulling the prank in school. Maggie stabs Sue Ann, saving Genie.
The group goes outside and assess what has happened. Sue Ann watches them, particularly Andy who survived the stabbing and is laying down next to Maggie. Sue Ann walks upstairs and lies down next to Ben's body, cuddling with it as the house burns.
- Octavia Spencer as Sue Ann "Ma" Ellington
- Kyanna Simone Simpson as young Sue Ann
- Diana Silvers as Maggie Thompson
- McKaley Miller as Haley, Maggie's friend
- Corey Fogelmanis as Andy Hawkins, Maggie’s boyfriend
- Juliette Lewis as Erica Thompson
- Teagan Edsell as young Erica
- Luke Evans as Ben Hawkins
- Andrew Matthew Welch as young Ben
- Gianni Paolo as Chaz, Maggie's friend
- Dante Brown as Darrell, Maggie's friend
- Missi Pyle as Mercedes, Ben's girlfriend
- Nicole Carpenter as young Mercedes
- Tanyell Waivers as Genie Ellington
- Allison Janney as Dr. Brooks, Sue Ann's boss
- Dominic Burgess as Stu, Erica's co-worker
- Heather Marie Pate as Ashley
- Tate Taylor as Officer Grainger
- Victor Turpin as Pietro Kramer
- Margaret Fegan as Stephanie
Ma came together as a result of Tate Taylor's desire to direct a film about "something fucked up," and a conversation he had with Octavia Spencer in which she told him that she was "sick of only being offered the same role and never getting to be a lead." The two are longtime friends, having worked together in films such as The Help and Get on Up. Jason Blum and Taylor, who have been friends for a few years, knew each other socially.
Taylor went to Blum's office, reiterating,
"I want to do something really fucked up."
He read Scotty Landes' script of the film, which Blumhouse Productions had bought the day before. Although the original draft was written with a white woman in the title role, Taylor immediately thought about Spencer. He went out to the hall, called Spencer, and asked her if she would like to be in a horror film; without reading the script, Spencer boarded the project.
There was no backstory for the title character in the original script, which made her "a complete monster that no audience member could sympathize with." The filmmakers made it a priority to come up with an authentic backstory for the role.
Ma grossed $45.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $14.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $60.6 million, against a production budget of $5 million.
In the United States and Canada, Ma was released alongside Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Rocketman, and was projected to gross around $20 million in its opening weekend. The film made $7.2 million on its first day, including $1.4 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $18.4 million, finishing fourth at the box office. The film made $7.8 million in its second weekend (dropping 54% and finishing in seventh), and then made $3.7 million in its third weekend.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 55% based on 194 reviews, with an average rating of 5.62/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Octavia Spencer's performance overpowers many of Ma's flaws, but uneven pacing and a labored story keep this thriller from fully realizing its unhinged potential." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 53 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Benjamin Lee of The Guardian gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, describing it as "a nasty yet surprisingly empathetic slab of exploitation with more than just carnage on its mind." Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly rated the film a grade of B, specifying, "Even as the story descends into full bloody camp at its crescendo, Spencer holds the more ludicrous plot threads together." Owen Glieberman of Variety wrote, "Spencer, a chameleon of an actress, does mood swings in Ma that leave us entertainingly off guard."
Jude Dry of IndieWire gave the film a grade of C, stating that "it takes an amusing premise, reduces it to its most basic parts, then weighs it down with silly scare tactics," while John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "It quickly spins its shaky premise off into an unconvincing study of emotional need and an even harder-to-believe revenge thriller."
|2019||Saturn Awards||Best Actress||Octavia Spencer||Nominated|||
|Best Thriller Film||Ma||Nominated|
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