Maggie (Booksmart) is the new kid in school. She and her mom moved back to the town where her mom, Erica (Juliette Lewis; Natural Born Killers), grew up after Maggie's parents divorced. It is here that Maggie meets a group of kids and they become friends. Wanting to party, they hang out in front of the liquor store until a nice older lady, Sue Ann, agrees to buy them booze. The teens then go and party in an abandoned part of town until the police bust them.
Sue Ann again agrees to buy them liquor but this time convinces them to follow her to a remote part of town where she lives. It is here that she offers her basement as a place where the kids can drink. Suddenly, Ma's (as the teens have nicknamed her) house is the happening place to be but over time Maggie realizes that things aren't as great as they seem and the teens stop going to Ma's. This upsets Ma to the point where she practically stalks the kids and lies to them to get them to return to her house.
Note to self… never piss of Octavia Spencer because she can be one crazy mother. We are used to seeing Spencer play women with a tough exterior though usually in an oppressive setting. Here she seems sweet and friendly but there is darkness lying just beneath the surface that rears its ugly head when she is shunned by the group of teens. It is obvious that Spencer could play almost any role to which she sets her mind and she once again proves why she is worthy of three best-supporting actress Oscar Nominations.
The rest of the cast is very good with Silvers leading a talented group of teens. Lewis holds her own as the fun but stern when necessary parent. Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) and Missi Pyle (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) play the quintessential former popular kids who grew up to have pretty good lives but who still bully others. Director Tate Taylor (The Help) does an excellent job of interweaving all their lives while also taking a small role in the film himself.
However, for a thriller, Ma doesn't deliver too much suspense. There are a few jump scares but nothing too over the top and if you saw the trailer you had a basic idea of the plot so there weren't many surprises overall. The biggest draw would be to see how sinister and warped Spencer can be and some of the nasty torture elements she brings into the mix to punish those that she felt wronged her both in the past as well as in the present. The ending was also a little anti-climatic so that was a letdown.
Listed under the horror/ thriller genre, I suppose Ma falls into that category but overall it is a tame version of both. Spencer is really the only reason to watch the movie and, as expected, she delivers. The concept is somewhat unique but could have probably been executed and marketed better.