Mama is a 2013 film starring Jessica Chastain, directed by Andy Muschietti and presented by Guillermo del Toro. It is based on Muschietti’s 2008 short of the same name. It is about two little girls who are abandoned in the woods for an extended period of time by their coward of a father. They are eventually discovered alive and brought back into civilization to live with their uncle. But how did they survive on their own for so long? And who are they talking to when they think you aren’t watching? The answer is Mama.
I purposely passed on this one when it first came out. I was turned off from the name alone and the story didn’t sound very compelling. Then I started hearing here and there about how it was a decent flick so I added it to the list this year. Another off-putting thing is the PG-13 rating, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate a shitty horror movie, just one without a plethora of gore and profanity. By the way, I’d just like to point out Chastain is unrecognizable.
I must say I was impressed with Mama. It does a lot with a little, so to speak. It focuses more on the characters struggles than the monster; a hallmark of a well made horror film. You can have all of the jump scares and people getting their heads sawed off but if the victims aren’t introduced as interesting or memorable than the concept falls flat. When the terrifying ghoul is onscreen it is a wonder to watch, even if the CGI could have been a tad better. The way the young girls interact with each other is captivating and different because, in contrast of most scary movies, the kids are the ones who know what is really going on. Not to say that they are the typical creepy kids; once they warm up to being back in a regular household they are sweet as can be.
The plot isn’t airtight, but I will give it a pass because of the uncommon things it explores. For instance, when the uncle is brought in, in an industry where men are usually calling the shots, most would automatically assume he is the main character but his girlfriend (Chastain) quickly tags in and takes the weight of the role on her shoulders. Another example is the bittersweet finale. It stands out from a crowd of endings prone to win/lose situations. I will mention that I wasn’t that scared throughout Mama. What it lacks in terror it certainly makes up for in curiousness, as I was more fascinated by Mama’s mystery and presence than frightened. I just wish I didn’t find another movie that del Toro stole ideas from for Crimson Peak.
4 aloof moths out of 5