Single mother Erica (Juliette Lewis) and her teenage daughter Maggie (Diana Silvers) are trying to make a fresh start, moving from San Diego back to Erica’s hometown in Ohio. Erica has left her desk job to become a cocktail server in a casino. Meanwhile, Maggie quickly makes some new friends at the high school—Andy Hawkins (Corey Fogelmanis), Haley (McKaley Miller), Chaz (Gianni Paolo) and Darrell (Dante Brown), who invite her to go drinking with them. The teens park outside the liquor store, and task Maggie with getting someone to buy them the alcohol, since she is a fresh face that no one would recognize. After several folks pass her by, Maggie sees veterinary technician Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer), and asks her to help. At first Sue Ann also says “No”, that is, until she sees Andy Hawkins in the driver’s seat, and then she becomes surprisingly willing to help the teens out. Is she attracted to this young man, or is there something else going on?
The next day Sue Ann just happens to run into the teens again, but this time offers up her basement as a place where they can safely drink and party. At first the teens are a bit skeptical, but once they see the place, they are overjoyed. Darrell even gives Sue Ann the loving nickname “Ma”. However, as the days and weeks go by, Ma’s obsession with the teens is bordering on creepy. She is constantly trying to get them to ditch school and go party at her house. She also starts dressing younger, and joins in on the parties herself. Maggie starts to notice that odd things have been happening at Ma’s and that something just doesn’t feel right. Eventually she and the other teens decide to call it quits, but Ma isn’t going to let them go that easily, and so the terror begins.
Octavia Spencer is well cast in this role—she plays both the likeable and the creepy side of this character really well. You can see why the teens are initially drawn to her and think of Sue Ann as their fun “Ma”. But then we see the darker, creepier side of Sue Ann. She is terrible at her job, and is constantly being reprimanded by her boss, Doctor Brooks (Allison Janney). She was bullied by the other kids at school when she was a child, and now these teen parties are her way of reliving those high school days, finally fitting in this time around. However, there appears to be more to her story—she has some sort of connection to Andy’s father, Ben (Luke Evans), and Maggie’s mother, who were her classmates when she was younger. So is this some sort of elaborate revenge plan, or does she really like hanging out with the teens?
I enjoyed the film and performances overall, and found the core concept of the movie to be quite solid, especially when Sue Ann is in full on creepy mode. However, some of the execution was a bit overly-ambitious—there is this whole Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy side storyline that didn’t really go anywhere. Also, sometimes Sue Ann’s methods and choices are a bit over-the-top and unbelievable. One example is how Sue Ann is supposed to be living paycheck-to-paycheck, and yet somehow regularly finds the money to host these parties for the kids and buy them hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol.
Universal’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great. The disc provides a clean, detailed picture in both the darker basement party scenes as well as the brighter scenes at school or outside the liquor store. The audio track provides clear dialogue and a generally immersive ambiance. The first time the teens end up at Ma’s house and step outside, the surround channel is filled with the sounds of nature, making you feel like you’ve stepped out of the car into the dark night air along with the teens.
The Blu-ray release comes packed in standard HD keepcase with a slipcover, and contains an insert with a code to redeem for an HD Movies Anywhere digital copy of the film. Both the Blu-ray and DVD discs contain the same assortment of bonus material, which consists of an alternate ending, 12 deleted scenes, and two short behind-the-scenes featurettes with the cast and filmmakers.
- 1080p / Widescreen 2.39:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DVS (Descriptive Video Service), Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1, French DTS Digital Surround 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS (Descriptive Video Service), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
- HD Movies Anywhere compatible digital copy
- Bonus Digital Movie (
www.upherewards.com. At the time of this review, the list of available titles includes Dead Again in Tombstone, Dracula (1931), Ratchet & Clank, The Stolen, Frankenstein (1931) and American Girl: Lea to the Rescue, but these change every 4 months or so.
Digital (for redemption deadline, see NBCUcodes.com):
- Alternate Ending (2:01)
With Ma gone, the teens plan to meet by the rock piles to drink. Genie is the newest member of the group, learning the ropes from the others. However. we then see a burned, wounded Ma collecting supplies from the vet office, where her boss lies dead in an animal cage.
- Deleted Scenes (11:23)
Collection of 12 deleted scenes. Play All or select from “Moving In“, “Brain Food”, “First Days”, “Late Bloomer”, “Mom’s Earrings Quote, “Hobo Attack”, “Sex-Ed Interrupted “, “Dinner for Louie“, “Liquor Store Staredown”, “Fornicating Hooligans”, “Campus Creeping”, and “Long Distance Girlfriend”.
- Creating Sue Ann (2:50)
The cast and filmmakers talk about the character of Sue Ann and how she changes over the course of the film. Includes behind-the-scene footage and interviews with executive producer Octavia Spencer (“Sue Anne”), producer Jason Blum, director/producer Tate Taylor (“Officer Grauner”), costume designer Megan Coates, and star Juliette Lewis (“Erica”).
- Party at Ma’s (3:53)
Behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. Includes interviews with executive producer Octavia Spencer, director/producer Tate Taylor, producer John Norris, and stars Diana Silvers (“Maggie”), Corey Fogelmanis (“Andy”), Gianni Paulo (“Chaz”), Dante Brown (“Darrell“), McKaley Miller (“Haley”), and Juliette Lewis.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:34)
Ma is mostly solid thriller, with a great central performance by Octavia Spencer—while I’ve enjoyed her comedic work, I would love to see her do more horror as she plays creepy really well. Universal’s Blu-ray release provides solid video and audio, and about 20 minutes of bonus material. Is this the best thriller out there, probably not, but it still provides an entertaining 99 minutes. With that said, I would probably skip the trailer, because it’ll make you feel like you’ve already seen the whole film.