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.
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 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 Spencer's performance but criticized the teenage characters, pacing, story 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 high school, Maggie befriends Andy Hawkins, Haley, Chaz, and Darrell. 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, and many 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. Suspecting that she stole jewelry from them at the parties, Maggie and Haley 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. The next day, the group shows up at her house for Chaz's birthday. Maggie rushes to rescue them, but arrives to find her friends drugged and Ben's body. 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, a taunt to his race, as he like herself is African-American. Andy awakens, and Sue Ann coaxes him into kissing her before stabbing him. 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, saves Maggie, and attacks Sue Ann, inadvertently creating a fire in the process. Erica arrives in time to rescue Maggie and her friends. 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. As the others escape, Sue Ann walks upstairs and lies down next to Ben's body, cuddling with it as the house burns around her.
- 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 54% based on 192 reviews, with an average rating of 5.61/10. 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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