Produced, Co-Written and Directed by Tate Taylor
After allowing some teenagers to drink and party at her house, a woman becomes increasingly obsessed with them and it becomes clear that she has dark ulterior motives.
While this movie is a good film it fails in that other than the central character the rest of the characters are not well-rounded. The majority of the characters in this film are teenagers. They are paper thin even by horror film standards. While they are not hormone addled idiots as is the case in most horror films, they are still pretty shallow.
The central teenage character is Maggie (Diana Silvers) who has moved back to town with her mother Erica (Juliette Lewis)-who is a hometown girl-after Erica’s marriage fell apart. Maggie is the new girl in town who just as a promptly as she comes into town is suddenly one of the gang. During her first lunch at school Haley (McKaley Miller) comes up to Maggie, befriends her and invites Maggie to a party in under five minutes. That seems like a bit of a leap. I got whiplash from how fast it happened.
You get to see a lot of the situation between the Erica and Maggie. Honestly, I’m not sure why it was necessary to have the mother return from out of town to her hometown for the purposes of the plot. It was a little extraneous. You could argue that it was so that the mother was caught off guard and had no way of knowing the Sue Ann character was possibly dangerous but nobody else seem too familiar with her either in that town. She seems to have faded into the background even though she never left.
In total, the teenagers in the movie are almost an afterthought in how they are written. It wouldn’t be an issue if they were not on the screen so much. I personally think there should have been less of them and more of Ma in the movie. All that really needed to be done was establishing who the kids were the children of since Ma’s whole plan is to get revenge on her high school tormenters via their children. I really just wanted to see more of Octavia Spencer.
Octavia Spencer just blew me away here. She is very creepy and frightening as the title character of Sue Ann “Ma” Ellington. In the beginning the character is probably best described as forgettable. She comes off as the type of person you would meet in public and then not be able to recall a thing about later but as the film goes on, you realize that something darker is going on as she becomes increasingly threatening.
Spencer was just so great in this role. She showed great skill in moving Sue Ann from a cool adult to a dangerous psycho. You felt the crazy. But she also managed to give Ma a touch of sympathy. In the movie they show how Sue Ann was humiliated in the past by the parents of the children she has set her sights on in the present and Ms. Spencer is able to play off of that. You do feel bad for her. You don’t feel she’s justified but you do feel bad for her. Ma taking revenge on the children of her high school tormentors in and of itself is really demented. She comes off as kind of sweet and a little odd until you realize that she connected with these kids not to be their friend but as some part of revenge.
The first 2/3 or so the movie are a little slow. It’s a lot of set up. A bit too much for me to be honest. Before the time the action picked up, I was thinking the I might have wasted my money. Glad I was wrong. The ending not only saved the movie but elevated it.
The movie picks up speed right after the character of Mercedes (Missi Pyle) gets run over. It’s quite a start. By this point in the movie Octavia Spencer has gone off the deep end but hasn’t gotten too violent. Ma is driving in her truck, sees Mercedes jogging and promptly runs her down and follows it with a derisive “F*****g cunt.” From there it just goes crazy. And as shown in the clip above, it’s capped off with a lighthearted 70s hit.
Despite a weak start, I loved this movie. It ended very strong. Surprisingly so given what had come on the screen before. The story is good with a great payoff at the end, and the movie has plenty of disturbing moments. While there are no real direct scares there are plenty of shocks. The movie is entertaining. You should see this movie. It is not to be missed.