I think I was as young as five when I was told about "Stranger Danger". My parents would always talk about how it was important not to approach strangers. To be fair, there is a lot that kids don't know about and even when they become teenagers, their bound to let their own naivety get in the way of not knowing better, especially when meeting other people. While I only went to high school when MySpace was still a thing, I can't imagine the pressure today's kids face when dealing with meeting online people on their social media channels.
In fact, I think there's a point where I hope parents do pay attention to who their children are communicating with of Facebook or Instagram. I understand that they want their children to feel independent, but I'd say its something else when random people are thrown into the mix. Today's movie has to deal with a group of kids that stupidly bring a stranger adult into their world, but their parents only realize that she's dangerous until it's too late. It's a style of horror that can scare people in different ways and I like that. So let's see what's going on in Ma.
Teenager Maggie Thompson (played by Dianna Silvers) had just moved with her mother back to Ohio where they hope for a better life. Her mother, Erica (played by Juliette Lewis) had grown up her and thus, has a lot of ex high school friends who all have children of their own. When Maggie goes to school, she meets another girl Haley, and is introduced to Chaz, Darrell, and Chaz, where they all decide to get some alchohol and have some fun. They all take turns standing outside, trying to get an adult to by booze. When Maggie tries by chance with a veterinary assistant Sue Ann (played by Octavia Spencer), she agrees and the seeds are planted.
Sue Ann starts to follow the kids on social media to learn about them. After the kids are caught , Sue assures them that if they want to drink in a safe place, their free to use her basement as a party zone. At first, the kids think nothing of it and host a couple of parties. But as Maggie notices her jewelry missing and her constant messages from Sue Ann, or as she call herself "Ma", she becomes weary of going back. It becomes clear that Ma has a lot of demons and may have her own agenda.
I can say there is something of an appeal to Ma. Is it an entertaining movie? It can be. Is it a good story? I wouldn't go that far. It's the kind of thriller that you have more fun with then questioning it. I did thanks to it's two leads Octavia Spencer and Diana Silvers. Octavia Spencer uses this chance to play against her type and proves she can be quite intimidating. Diana has the right look of pretty and ordinary. I think it had to do with her eyes and eyebrows witch didn't feel fake.
So what about their stories? This is where the script was having trouble. The logic applied relies either on teenagers making stupid decisions or Octavia Spencer's character offbeat writing. I know teenagers that party would love to have a place where their parents wouldn’t know where they were, but I still feel like there'd be more hesitation to suddenly go drink with this woman just because her place is available. With social media and constant worries of missing people, you'd think these kids would know better.
Let's get back to Octavia Spencer. A lot like Annie Wilkes from Misery, the movie tries to give this character a lot of backstory to explain her connection to these kids and their parents. Without giving it away, it does become revenge-like. I can see what they were trying to do, but even with what happened to her when she was younger, I still didn't feel like I got to know her enough to sympathize with her. I think this movie needed to be funnier in order forgive the underwritten aspect. I did laugh a couple of times and the movie clearly knows how darkly humorous the scenario is. It just needed to embrace that side more.
I'll give this three teenage vans out of five. It's not without enjoyment and may even provide as a cautionary tale for teenagers, their use of social media, and stranger danger. This is something that needed more of an identity. I think it's audience will still have fun regardless. If this is your cup of tea, then by all means take a visit to Ma.