Running Time: 100 minutes
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Directed By: Andres Muschietti
Rated: 5.5 out of 10
Two little girls get lost in the woods. They are found five years later and tell the story of an imaginary guardian named Mama.
“Mama” – Jim Carrey from Liar Liar
Two little girls go missing and are presumed dead. 5 years later they are found alive in the forest and are remarkably well preserved. There are no scientific explanations on how these two little girls could have survived alone in the woods for so long. Their Uncle and his girlfriend agree to take them into their house, only to discover they weren’t as alone in the woods as once thought.
“Mama.” There are a just a couple of things I want to say before I start my review. First, this is a terribly named film. Second, Guillermo Del Toro needs to stop presenting shit and stick to directing. Lastly, I have read review after review of how awful this film is, it isn’t that bad. The film starts out and the viewer is treated to the two children getting lost in the woods. It is a pet peeve of mine that they are not that far from civilization and yet they are totally lost to the world (but I digress.) Fast forward five years, and the kids are miraculously found alive and are doing quite well under the circumstances. These two little girls have endured harsh conditions and have come out a little on the feral side because of it. “Mama.” Their wild nature plays a big role with some of the effective scares that occur later on. Their loving uncle (Lucas) and his girlfriend (Annabel) decide to act as the girl’s guardians for the time being, and so the girls move in with them to reacquaint themselves with the real world. It doesn’t take long to realize that something is not right in the house. The girl’s talk of an imaginary protector named Mama. The doctors seem to think it is a manifestation of being alone for so long. They are about to discover that Mama is not that imaginary after all. The first half of the film sees a decent build up of story and the occasional fright. The girls creepily walk around the house on all fours, and they sleep on the floor or under the bed like wild animals. Add in odd noises coming from the walls and the closets, and the film starts off strong. “Mama.”
The acting is pretty good in this. Annabel is played by Jessica Chastain and she continues her recent trend of impressive performances (The Help, Zero Dark Thirty.) I am not saying this is an Oscar worthy performance, but she plays the alternative girlfriend quite well. She takes on the motherly role and is calm and collected when under stress. She might be faulted for sticking around the scary house for too long, but at least she is a strong character and wasn’t ditzy. Uncle Lucas was played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and he was okay. You will probably like him more in this if you don’t watch Game of Thrones. All I see is the Kingslayer, and Waldau’s performance did not convince me out of that vision. Lastly, I was very impressed with the kids. As you well know I am especially harsh on child actors, but they were solid in this. The two girls were played by Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse. These two girls have much to be proud of as they grunted and snarled their way through this film. Overall, the acting allowed you to enjoy film more which I appreciated. “Mama.”
As the film carries on, it starts to unravel. While monsters in the closet and under the bed scenarios do work effectively in this. The story just cannot offer the quality scares like the start did. Mama is seen too soon, too frequently, and is too computer animated to be taken seriously. There are also convoluted dream sequences and characters stupidly wandering into dangerous locations by themselves. What once was frightening, quickly turns ludicrous, as Mama enacts an insane plot to get the girls back. The love between a mother and her child can be intense and powerful. Annabel’s maternal instincts to protect the girls are about to be tested by Mama’s resolve to get them back. Who will win? “Mama.” In conclusion, the acting is good, and there are a respectable number of jump scares. The kid’s wild nature is very unsettling, and the sound Mama makes is bone chilling. Unfortunately, the story is messy and relies too heavily on dream sequences and stupid plot development. At the end of the day, Mama herself is the worst part to this film. She just doesn’t have that X Factor to make this film work. The ending is also horrifically stupid.
Director Andres Muschietti (I pronounce Muschietti like Margheriti from Inglorious Basterds) shows that he is competent at making horror. He has an effective style that the viewer can easily get invested in, even though the material is out there. His casting and pacing lead to an easy watch and there are a few truly scary scenes. His downfall was the implementation of CGI and his overuse of the Mama character. With a few script tweaks, this film could have worked, but ultimately it falls just short.
I cannot recommend this film but it is better than what most critics say. Also, “Mama.”
T Factor + If you like creature horror then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you like gore in your horror then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Darkness Falls, Pitch Black.