I had been excited for this film, nce I saw the trailer months ago. Guillermo Del Toro had disappointed me with his previous work “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”. While that movie had its moments, and wasn’t horrible, nothing about fairies was scary to me. However, I truly loved Pan’s Labyrinth. So deep down I was hoping this film would follow in the ladders footsteps.
Lets start off with the obvious, whenever Guillermo’s name is attached to a movie, it always has a certain feel and look to it. So regardless to how you end up feeling about the movie, you can always appreciate his touch. Second, Jesca Chastain is an amazing actress if you ask me. In my opinion, if well known and respected actors or actresses join a horror film…its usually going to be a worth you time. There have been a few times that it didn’t work that way for me, but you cant get it right every time.
Andres Muschietti did some good things with his director’s potion. There are a lot of well thought out moments, of how to show a certain event in the best way. Especially an earlier scene in the film, where Lily is playing in the room and Annabel is moving about in the hallway. The beginning of the film is very well done, and grabbed me immediately. The younger veron of Victoria (played by Morgan McGarry) was an adorable little girl, and the tuation her father puts her and her ster in is very sad. She was also a pleasant little actress to have on screen for her short few minutes. Within the first five minutes of the story, we get our first glimpse of “Mama”. Which was well done, in my opinion. It wasn’t too assertive, too early in the film. Yet once the darkness became superior to the light in the room, you didn’t want to see her (regardless of how much you actually got to see previously).
*Minor Spoiler* One of my favorite things about this film, is that Victoria never got to actually see what “Mama” looked like all those years in the cabin. She was wearing glasses at an early age, and after an unfortunate turn of events, they were broken. Later in the film, when “Mama” would appear Victoria always took off her glasses; knowing she didn’t want to actually see the being that had been taking care of her for all those years. It was sweet in a sad way, because she didn’t want anything to ruin how she felt about “Mama”.
We are then following Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Annabel (Jesca) as he continues to search for his nieces. Annabel is a alternative rocker girl, who is apart of a band; also no where near ready to become a mother figure. Lucas however, wants with everything in him to raise and love the girls. After years of no success, the men on the hunt finally come upon the cabin the girls have been living in. Of course after five years of surviving with the help of a supernatural being, the girls are rabid. However, after evaluation are granted to Lucas and Annabel.
From this point on the movie is carried by Jesca Chastain and Megan Charpentier. Megan who plays Victoria and Isabelle Nelisse who plays Lily do great in this film. For young actresses, they play their parts better than expected. Lily is cautious of this new life she is thrust into, while Victoria is eager to embrace it. While Annabel is trying to wrap her head around the concept of taking care of these two little girls, they are worried for her wellbeing.
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While this film doesn’t try to attack you with constant jump scares, or mindless gore; it does keep you interested with its creepy atmosphere. So don’t go in expecting a film that’s going to keep trying to force you into a heart attack (much like INDIOUS). Up until the last act of the film, you don’t get to see too much of “Mama”. Which worked well, and made her presence much more disturbing. The film really draws you in with its story (in the right way, not how The Posseson wanted to focus solely on how a divorce effects a family) while giving you those moments of dread placed throughout. For what this film lacks in gore and constant action, it makes up for in its atmosphere and performances.
While there are many things I praise about this film, there are a few examples of what it did wrong as well. To start off, the dream/vion that Lucas has…while yes it serves purpose to his presence in the finale I don’t like the way it was executed. Second, Mama was much more terrifying when we saw less of her. However towards the end of the film, seeing more of her was the only way for it to work. Third there was a section of the plot that I wish they would have elaborated on. For those who havent seen the movie the next few sentences contains a *minor spoiler*. In the dream that “Mama” shows to Victoria and Annabel, “Mama” has an ability that comes through with her touch. I wish they would have expanded a little more on this, as it is used later in the film as well. For example, how/why she has that ability and exactly how she can use it. Its obvious it has more than just one effect. *Spoiler Over*
In the end, this movie has some great Symbology (moths to butterflies & the different mother figures portrayed by Mama and Annabel). It also has a pretty ending that means more than most in this genre. It follows more in the footsteps of “The Ring” and “The Grudge” while bringing a little bit more to the table. I havent been satisfied by a horror film nce early in the last year with “The Woman in Black” and “Cabin in the Woods”.
Overall, this movie was worth my time and money. For the things it does wrong, it gets a lot more right. For all the time it doesn’t spend trying to scare you out of your wits, it makes up for it when something actually does happen. I did however feel “Mama” looked scarier in the clip that inspired the movie, yet she was disturbing in a different way in the actual film. They also put it in the film in a great way, that stayed true to its original form…yet was just different enough. While some of the CGI is a little off at times, its also why some of the scenes work as well as they do. While it isn’t on the same level as recent “spirit” movies like INDIOUS or Paranormal, it gives you plenty of creepy imagery and thought out scares. “Mama” was for me, the best horror film ive seen in almost an entire year.
I give “Mama” 8 ½ out of 10 and hope the next slew of horror films continue in her footsteps