When a withdrawn woman agrees to buy a group of teens alcohol, they have no idea what they're getting into. In Ma, which is out in theaters now, Octavia Spencer's character Sue Ann follows up that first favor by inviting local high schoolers to drink — safely — in her basement. But that seemingly friendly invitation turns ominous when Sue Ann, who the kids nickname Ma, becomes obsessed with her new "friends." Her intentions are definitely not good, but how scary is Ma? While the plot sounds like it could be setting up a comedy about unlikely friends, this new horror film is definitely not that.
The basement of her house eventually turns into a death trap for some, as Spencer’s character gives a whole new meaning to the term “stranger danger.” Her past also comes into play, as it's revealed why Ma holds a grudge against her own former classmates — the parents of some of the rowdy teens.
Ma comes to audiences via Blumhouse Productions, the company that also produced Get Out, Happy Death Day, 2018’s Halloween, and many more horrific films from the past few years. So that ought to give you an idea of what to expect. Add in the talent of the Oscar-winning lead playing a sinister character type you don't normally see in the genre, and Ma has the makings of a fun, summer slasher flick.
Spencer teams up with her frequent collaborator, Tate Taylor, who previously directed her in Chicken Party, Pretty Ugly People, The Help, and Get On Up. The director also helmed 2016's The Girl on the Train, which gave him experience in creating suspense. In an interview with the UK's Total Film, as reported by SyFy Wire, Taylor said that Spencer had requested that they collaborate on something much different from her usual roles.
“Octavia — who’s just one of my best friends — had called me up and said, ‘I am so sick of having to put on period wigs and costumes. I want to do something f*cked up!’” Taylor told the publication. Spencer isn't a complete stranger to the horror genre, though. While she may be best known for her roles in period films like The Help, Hidden Figures, and The Shape of Water, she’s also appeared in Halloween II and Drag Me to Hell.
Now with her starring role, though, Spencer is able to fully let her freak flag fly, and it seems to be working, just based on the reactions to the Ma trailer on Twitter.
In an interview with Screen Rant, Spencer revealed that she didn’t necessarily change her approach when it came to playing a villainous character. “I didn’t approach it at all as a horror film. To sell her for me, in order to believe that she goes from Point A to Point Z, I had to build her character based on all of the things that she went through mentally," she said. "So I had to ground her in her reality.”
In a way, knowing that Spencer took her character deadly seriously makes Ma's unraveling even scarier. But expect some nervous laughter too, as the events of the film unfold.