A lonely, middle-aged woman befriends a group of teenagers and lets them party in her house, but after a while, the middle-aged woman starts acting strangely possessive.
I remember seeing the trailer for this film and thinking that it looked… odd. I had no idea why one time Oscar winner and three time nominee Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”) would lend her talents to this ostensibly run-of-the-mill thriller. That trailer was so poorly put together it looked as if even the marketing team had a hard time figuring out what to do with this one. But, I’m a huge horror fan, and I’m always on the lookout for horror movies- even if they do tend to be a little on the schmaltzier side. I was surprised to see that Tate Taylor (director of “The Help”) was at the helm of this particular film, but I also thought that might’ve explained Octavia Spencer’s involvement- perhaps she took the role as a favor. Tate has made a few competent films, but other than “The Help” I wouldn’t say he’s made anything that’s particularly noteworthy. I figured that, at worst, I’d be wasting an hour and a half of my time, so I plopped down and started up the film.
Almost immediately, I started to wonder at whom this film was targeted. The basic plot is that a girl named Maggie (Diana Silvers, “Booksmart”) arrives at a new school and begins to make friends with some of the more popular kids. The kids just like to hang out, drink booze, smoke pot, and drive around- but one day they get caught. A woman named Sue Ann (Spencer) whom has been buying them alcohol offers to let them party in her basement so they can avoid police and parental intrusions in the future. The kids accept her invitation and spend a fair amount of time drinking and smoking there, even though Sue Ann has some weird quirks (at one point she points a gun at one of their friends and forces him to strip, then she laughs it off as a joke). After a while, Sue Ann starts getting clingy, and the kids decide not to spend time with her anymore. This sends her off the deep end and things escalate into violence.
So, who is this story for? To me, the plot felt pretty juvenile- it’s about teenagers doing teenage things and having teenage consequences. Most of the story beats and plot elements feels as if this film should’ve been marketed as a PG-13 horror flick, but then the violence at the end gets pretty graphic, and there’s a fair amount of language as well. I guess I felt torn during my whole viewing, not knowing who this was supposed to be for; younger teenagers are the only ones who would find this situation frightening, but the violence makes this a hard R film, so, clearly, the producers thought this film could scare adults too…
I also had a hard time buying the overall plot. I mean, I was a kid in high school before too, and oftentimes we did our best to avoid going to places where there would be parental supervision. I know Sue Ann was all for the kids drinking and smoking in her house, but me personally, I would still take my chances hanging out in the woods, rather than hang out with some weird forty-year-old lady that forces my friends to strip at gunpoint. There were plenty of warning signs and chances for those kids to get out of there before crap really started to get real.
Though most of this film was a total wash, I have to say that Octavia Spencer really brought a lot to this script. I was actually thoroughly captivated by her performance almost throughout the entire film, not because what was happening was particularly compelling, but because Spencer herself cared so much about giving a good performance. The dialogue in this movie is practically laughable, yet Spencer finds a way to make some of it ring somewhat true. The way that she completely commits to the role is commendable; she truly is a great actor, and even though I wouldn’t recommend this movie at all, I do have to say her performance was easily the best part.
This was such a forgettable film. I honestly didn’t have a ton of hope for it going in, but I had hoped for something more than this. Other than a scene-stealing performance by Octavia Spencer, this film had pretty much nothing going for it. I wouldn’t recommend this movie; it’s not scary enough to be watched as a true horror film and it’s not silly enough to watch as a so-bad-its-good kind of way.
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