Mama – 3 out of 5
I saw this movie in the theater because A) I saw Guillermo del Toro was the executive producer and I love that guy and B) my girlfriend loves horror films (we're a couple that is overflowing with love). Normally, I’m pretty hard to scare so most horror films have no impact on me at all but through most of this film, I was scared shitless—no shit was left on my person for the first two-thirds of this film.
Mama is based on a 2008 short film of the same name by Andrés Muschietti (credited in this film as Andy Muschietti)—in fact, it was this short film that caught del Toro’s attention—and it tells the tale of two little girls; Victoria and Lilly (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse) who are left to fend for themselves in a small house in the woods that is haunted by the tormented spirit of a person they call “Mama.” Relentlessly searching for his nieces; Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones and who also plays his own brother in this one) spends every cent to his name (and he’s an artist so he probably spend about 17 dollars on the search) to find his kin and, eventually, the men he sends out find the girls locate them; dirty, malnourished and feral to the point they were probably pissing in the corners to mark their territory. With the help of a child psychologist (Daniel Kash), Lucas and his rock star girlfriend; Annabel (Jessica Chastain), get custody of the kids (much to the annoyance of Annabel) and move into a larger home in order to reintroduce the girls into society. All the adult players quickly learn about “Mama” and strange occurrences start to happen in the house that include Lucas being attacked and hospitalized, horrific nightmares experienced by Annabel and car keys being pushed off a counter—ha ha, I’m just kidding, this isn’t Paranormal Activity, real ghost shit goes down in this film, not lame fluff. Pretty soon, the true terror of what Mama wants starts to come to light just as Annabel begins to care for the children and Victoria starts to put her life with Mama, and her time in the woods alone, behind her.
|"Hmmm...she's about to fling something at me..."|
For the majority of the film, Mama is creepy as all hell. Muschietti’s use of light, shadow and sound (seriously, the moans and cries of Mama is enough to make me beg for death so I don't have to endure what tortures that frightening bitch has in store for me) really created an atmosphere that could shatter a person’s bowels and make their skin literally leap off their bones and run for the hills (I’m not misusing the word “literally” there because your skin is in danger of tearing itself off and fleeing in pants-crapping terror during some of these sequences). Rarely does Muschietti let up on the tension he builds in this film and, in doing so, makes your heart race the entire time.
|Not turning the lights on in the hospital is a great way to save on the electric bill|
and to ensure future business as people harm themselves horrifically trying to
navigate poorly lit hallways.
|Sure it's hard to see what exactly is going on here but,|
trust me, it's scary as having a period...when you're a guy.
|"I'm alright but you should see the other guy. He's probably not going to walk|
again after I pushed him out of the window at the tower of House Stark. Hmm?
No, my hand isn't cut off. Why do you ask?"
|One actor playing twins?!? The future is NOW!|
|"If I can't help these kids...I'll set off my doomsday device! Bwa-ha-ha!"|
Getting decent kid actors is hard because…well…they’re freaking kids and unless they’re born with a natural talent you can’t expect much from them because they simply haven’t had the experience under their belt or have had all their dreams crushed before they so they are forced to learn to pretend to be happy like the rest of us (that’s where acting comes from, kids…crushed dreams and hopes). Surprisingly however, Charpentier and Nélisse were fantastic in their roles. While Charpentier is the actual vocal one of the duo and really shows how the character of Victoria goes from someone not ready to give up the life she had with Mama to someone who embraces Annabel as her new guardian, it’s Nélisse who really delivers as the character of Lilly, the one who won’t give up Mama. Rarely does this child speak but with a simple smirk and stare into the dark corners of the home, she is able to make me simultaneously shiver with fear and give up on any and all attempts of wanting to ever be a father.
|Holy shit, that's creepy. It can't any worse than this...|
|SWEET AND SOUR JESUS!!! I WAS WRONG--I WAS REALLY REALLY|
WRONG! KILL IT WITH FIRE!
Jessica Chastain also does a great job in this film making the scary shit that is storming around her believable. While her character early on was hard for me to deal with because she, let’s be blunt here, comes off as a bitch as she would rather play bass in her generic rock band that is established that she’s in, than spend time with her boyfriend’s nieces. However, as the icy façade coating herself and Victoria start to melt, we see Chastain evolve this character to be less of a heartless witch of a bassist (she was a bassist anyway, no one cares about the bassist) and she becomes more of a fearless guardian who won’t let any harm come to the girls…even if it’s a deformed demonic spirit trying to get it’s spindly fingers on them.
|It's hard to believe one of these two were obsessed with hunting down Osamabin Laden...|
I'm, of course, speaking of the little girl on the left.
While Mama is incredibly scary and creepy as all holy fuck, the film does have its problems that keep it from being truly, wonderfully amazing…and that is the ending. While the first and middle parts of the film are filled with great acting, spine-slamming scares and a wonderfully developed story, the end of the film and its climax results in something completely different. It goes from being a terrifying tale of an angry and restless spirit and turns into something that I can only describe as a grim (not Grimm) fairy tale. Without giving out spoilers, the film ends up being less about a vengeful spirit with a misguided desire to lay a claim of ownership on some children and becomes more about a kid finding a buddy with a ghost that kills people. While this ending makes sense with the backstory of Mama, it did create a dramatic hard turn with the tone of the film for me as it ceased being about trying to scare me and ended up looking more like those odd short stories about wayward, benevolent spirits I read or heard about in grade school. In fact, if you take out Mama's affinity towards straight up murdering people’s asses and replaced it with just sightings of Mama when the girls left the house in the woods, the film might have looked like, with its ending intact, an adaptation of one of R. L. Stine’s tamer Goosebumps books.
|And then this shows up in the film...so it's never far away from truly horrifying|
For the most part, I enjoyed Mama (and yes, that sentence can totally be taken the wrong way). However, the ending hurt the film in a big way and nearly spoiled all the great scares, tension, suspense, tremendous acting and story that was built up before that point. However, since it did succeed in scaring the uric acid from my body when other, bigger budget horror films have failed, the film is not bad and definitely worth a view.