Mama (2013) Directed by Andrés Muschietti. Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Megan Charpentier. IMDB says: “Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?”
When it comes to horror, I find that I’m always a little more forgiving in my reviews. This will again be the case for Mama, a new film directed by Andrés Muschietti and presented by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth.) The story is somewhat of an odd horror fairy tale about two sisters abandoned in the remote woods at a very young age that survive thanks to a supernatural presence they call Mama. After a ‘Once upon a time’ title card written in a child’s handwriting is introduced, a series of kid’s drawing fill in the audience as to what happened during their disappearance. It’s easy to see what attracted del Toro to the project as it displays a lot of similar fable-like elements evidenced in his own work, but as we learned before with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, del Toro’s recommendation alone isn’t always enough to make the film come to life. While Mama is creepy and at times, fully gripping, it falters in the end from an overuse of CGI and a script that seems hell bent on racking up a number of horror genre tropes.
As previously stated, the story is a bit of a twisted fairy tale involving the two girls and their relationship with the spirit. The movie also follows a mystery plot line with various characters who try to uncover Mama’s backstory. Both narratives are somewhat interesting in their own right, but an overuse of completely avoidable horror clichés quickly derails them. Obvious things like crappy flashlights, use of the camera flash and cheap jump scares are all present here, but the more headache –inducing moments belong to weird character actions and motivations. There are a bunch of silly details popping up throughout the movie that seem completely nonsensical and often over-explain stuff when it’s unnecessary. It almost seemed like the writer put together a nice simple story and then injected in things he thought other people would consider “scary.” Fortunately, these attempts can also work in the movie’s favor. There are a few genuine seat-shifting moments and occasions of surprise that you won’t fully give up on the flick. What I liked most about the film is its tone and use of lighting which gave the whole movie a real sense of unease and unknown. I appreciate the originality driving the film and it kept me invested in the characters, even when other factors worked against them.
Overall, it’s a tough film to muster a lot of positive criticism for but that doesn’t really speak to how much I did or didn’t like it. It is still a fun film with enough solid acting and spooks to get you through it, I just recommend saving it for an at home viewing.
FTS SCORE: 66%
Mama is out in theaters January 18th.