Ma is a 2019 American psychological horror film produced, co-written and directed by Tate Taylor. It stars Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, Diana Silvers, 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 Tate Taylor and John Norris.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tate Taylor|
|Story by||Scotty Landes|
|Music by||Gregory Tripi|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$61.1 million|
Initially, Ma came together as a result of Taylor's desire to direct a film about "something fucked up" and Spencer's desire to break away from the kinds of roles she usually gets to play. 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. 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 $61.6 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, who praised Spencer's performance but criticized the teenage characters and 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 "Ma" Ellington, a veterinary technician, to help buy them alcohol because they are underage. Sue Ann anonymously reports the teenagers' activities, but they are released because of the officer's history with Andy's father, Ben. The next day, Sue Ann invites the teenagers to drink in her basement. The next time they go, Sue Ann has decorated her basement and many other teenagers 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 spend time with her. One night, Sue Ann sees Andy and Maggie kissing and becomes jealous; she is in love with him, having had a crush on his father, Ben, in high school. She drugs Maggie 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 Sue Ann's house anymore and that she does not want him to go, either.
To earn the group's trust back, Ma lies to them that she has pancreatic cancer. 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; Maggie is surprised to see her walking, as she uses a wheelchair at school. Genie tells them to leave as Sue Ann arrives home, and they narrowly escape.
Andy’s father Ben, who went to high school with Sue Ann, shows up at her job to drop off his cat and invites her out for drinks after work. Sue Ann goes home to change and meets him at the bar, where Ben confronts Sue Ann with a tracking device and asks her why his son has been at her house so much. Ben warns Sue Ann to stay away from Andy.
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 had been doing it to another boy 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 mother the truth about Sue Ann, and Erica grounds her. Sue Ann sends Maggie a picture of herself with Andy in her basement at Chaz's birthday party. 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 renders 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. Andy awakens, and tries to seduce Sue Ann, as he is well aware that she is in love with him. She kisses him, but stabs him after realizing that he is lying. A police officer arrives and when Maggie screams for help, Sue Ann shoots him 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 the friendship 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 co-worker Stu for help and the two save the teenagers. 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 asks what has happened. Sue Ann walks upstairs and lies down next to Ben's corpse, 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. Taylor thought it was important to weave the themes of trauma, the sins of our parents, and how we treat people into the story to create a character audiences can relate to and feel bad for.
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 198 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."
- "Ma (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
- Miska, Brad (February 1, 2018). "'Shape of Water's Octavia Spencer Starring In 'Help' Director's 'Ma'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
- Romano, Nick (February 1, 2018). "Octavia Spencer and The Help director reunite for psychological thriller". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
- Jackson, Angelique (May 20, 2019). "Octavia Spencer on 'Ma': 'These Types of Roles Haven't Really Been Available to Women of Color'". Variety. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
- Sharf, Zack (May 30, 2019). "Octavia Spencer Got Pitched 'Ma' and Asked: 'Am I the Black Person Who Gets Killed First?'". IndieWire. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
- Cea, Max (May 30, 2019). "The Director of Ma Will Not Let You Pee". GQ. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
- Sharf, Zack (2019-05-30). "Octavia Spencer Got Pitched 'Ma' and Asked: 'Am I the Black Person Who Gets Killed First?'". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-03-06.
- Tartaglione, Nancy (February 1, 2018). "Octavia Spencer To Star In Blumhouse Thriller 'Ma'; Reteam With Tate Taylor". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
- Lang, Brent (February 1, 2018). "Octavia Spencer to Reunite With 'The Help' Director Tate Taylor on Blumhouse's 'Ma' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
- Romano, Nick (February 1, 2018). "Octavia Spencer and The Help director reunite for psychological thriller". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
- Spencer, Octavia (March 16, 2018). "I can't let this week end without acknowledging the wrap of my first starring role in Blumhouse's horror thriller, #MA". Instagram. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
- Hipes, Patrick (February 12, 2019). "Tate Taylor's Blumhouse Thriller 'Ma' Gets Summer Release Date". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- MAMovie [@MAmovie] (February 13, 2019). "Welcome to MA's. From the producers of Get Out and Happy Death Day, Octavia Spencer stars in #MAmovie - in theaters May 31. Watch the trailer. t.co/DOhAJdB6PW" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Latchem, John (July 16, 2019). "Universal's 'Ma' Due Digitally Aug. 20, on Disc Sept. 3". Media Play News. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (May 16, 2019). "'Secret Life Of Pets 2' To Have Upper Paw Over 'Dark Phoenix' – Early B.O. Projections". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Anthony D'Alessandro (June 1, 2019). "'Godzilla: King' Of The B.O. With $51M+, 'Rocketman' Still Standing With $23M+, 'Ma' At $18M+". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
- Anthony D'Alessandro (June 9, 2019). "'Secret Life Of Pets 2' Seeing $47M+, But 'Dark Phoenix' Up In Smoke With $32M+ In Lowest Opening For 'X-Men' Movie". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (June 16, 2019). "'Men In Black: International' Domestic Passport Revoked With $26M Opening, 'Shaft' Drops His Gun With $7M+: Summer Sequelitis, Here We Go Again". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
- "Ma (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
- "Ma (2019) reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
- Lee, Benjamin (May 29, 2019). "Ma review – Octavia Spencer kills it in creepy exploitation thriller". The Guardian. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
- Greenblatt, Leah (May 29, 2019). "Octavia Spencer makes the camp high-school horror of Ma worth watching: EW review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
- Gleiberman, Owen (May 29, 2019). "Film Review: Octavia Spencer in 'Ma'". Variety. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
- Dry, Jude (May 29, 2019). "'Ma' Review: Octavia Spencer Is Hilarious As a Teen-Obsessed Veterinarian". IndieWire. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
- DeFore, John (May 29, 2019). "'Ma': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
- Hammond, Pete (July 15, 2019). "'Avengers: Endgame', 'Game Of Thrones' Lead Saturn Award Nominations". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 15, 2019.