Ian Lindsey’s review published on Letterboxd:
I was onboard with this in the early going. It's a novel setup and there's a sense of growing unease. Things aren't quite right but like the morning after a blackout, it's hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.
Octavia Spencer is clearly having fun and chews up as much scenery as possible. The people playing the teens are better than you usually get in high school centric movies. And both Luke Evans and Juliette Lewis do solid support work.
At its best, Ma is as fun and odd as its aggressively played trailer would suggest. It shares some definite crossover with Greta, another campy weirdo thriller starring a respected actress. Still, Ma's stranger and more violent moments feel tame compared to Greta's all in commitment, especially in the third act. Also, while Greta and other movies of this kind are content not to be about much beyind entertainment. Ma has bigger things on its mind.
Those bigger ambitions are where most of my issues with the movie come in which maybe shouldn't be surprising since this is the same guy who gave us The Help. The movie decides to tackle underage drinking, bullying, and sexual assault. It also throws in something about generational guilt and single parenting because why not?
Out of those subjects, the underage drinking is probably handled the best. It's grounded enough in reality to feel relatable and consequently, the horror elements hit harder. This does devolve over the course of the movie and ends up in an over the top DARE style PSA but it still mostly works.
It's the sexual assault element that bothered me the most. Victim into villain is a pretty standard arc, especially in exploitation movies. It's not my favorite thing but I can tolerate it most of the time. Still, there's something here and the place where this movie ends up between pure trash and trying to actually say something that makes it especially uncomfortable. There are lines and phrases that left me feeling that the filmmakers had done some research and knew exactly what they were doing.
I really wanted to like this and I genuinely enjoyed most of the ride. I hope we get more weird horror/thriller movies like this. But this one and its conclusion left me feeling a little gross and unsatisfied.