- Starring: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Headhunters), Megan Charpentier (Resident Evil: Retribution) and more.
- Directed by: Andrés Muschietti
- Synopsis: “Guillermo del Toro presents Mama, a supernatural thriller that tells the haunting tale of two little girls who disappeared into the woods the day that their parents were killed. When they are rescued years later and begin a new life, they find that someone or something still wants to come tuck them in at night.” (-official site)
- Rated: Rated PG-13 for violence, terror, disturbing images and thematic material.
- Must-Watch Trailer:
Guiellermo del Toro watched a short film a while back that he called “essentially one of the scariest little scenes I’ve ever seen.” This short, entitled Mama, served as his inspiration to produce the full-length film for which this review is written. Take a moment to check out the quick video below in which he introduces the short and shows it. Goes to show that sometimes all the hard work people put in to making their shorts can truly grow into a full-length release with the support of a big name director such as del Toro.)
Guillermo del Toro presents a scary ghost tale inspired by director Andrés Muschietti’s original short film also entitled Mama. This chilling thriller stars Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain and “Game of Thrones” actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, along with a pair of young actresses that deliver in their roles better than some other child actors in horror movies. They did well in portraying innocence, faith, fear, depravity and more.
Mama is a smart horror film that tells its tale in similar fashion to others, however, where most horror movies will only focus on the supernatural, Mama gives audiences a reason or two to care about the characters as well.
The story opens and leads us down the sequence of events that find the two young girls alone and deserted in a cabin in the woods (no relation to last year’s amazing horror flick). Only, they are not so alone and deserted. Five years pass and the undaunting and financially tolling quest of their uncle Lucas (Coster-Waldau) and his rockband girlfriend Annabel (Chastain) finally pays off as they accomplish something the police never could in five years…find his two nieces, still alive, mal-nutritioned, and void of social interactive skills. The journey of the road to recovery and re-acclamation begins as the girls now must adapt to civilization and Lucas and Annabel must adapt to unexpected parenthood and guardianship of the girls (a task that Annabel is not overly thrilled about).
You can take the girls out of the cabin, but you can’t take the cabin out of the girls. The ghost that harbored and protected the girls in the cabin for so many years follows them to their new suburban home and this is where the majority of the intrigue and “expected” horror film events take place. The suspense is not anything new…however the presentation of it makes it fun. I enjoyed the “shock and scare” moments actually and found them both chilling and creative at times.
Del Toro accomplishes setting a very suspenseful tone that is maintained throughout. From creepiness brought on by children and laughter to the disjointed movements of the apparition to the amount of violence littered throughout to the backstory of the ghost and its reveal…it all works together to keep the intrigue in the movie going.
Each horror movie lately, it seems, tends to struggle with the final act. The act after the “reveal” has been made. The reason, I find, is because there isn’t much more to be vested in or curious about come that moment and all we can do is then wait for the expected end: (either everybody dies or everybody lives…hooray [enter shoulder shrugs]). Mama does not necessarily go that route, but I almost wish that it had. Rolling up to an ending the film takes a detour and does not pan out quite as expected. Although, admittedly, given the progression of some of the characters (namely one of the little girls) I still felt oddly somewhat satisfied.
For sake of avoiding spoilers I can only explain it this way: This ghost movie ends on a note that surprisingly brings satisfaction to all and none of the parties involved at the same time. I left glad that it didn’t do the whole cliche ending I expected, but also shocked a little bit with how it chose to conclude. It’s not bad, but as I watched, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit and then pay attention wondering if what I thought was about to happen really was about to happen. And…when it did, I saw it coming yet still felt a little surprised.
Suspenseful and creepy, del Toro takes a ghost story, brings it into our day and age, and makes it worth a watch. Check it out, especially if thrillers and chillers are your thing. Will it make it into one of the top movies of 2013? No. But it won’t be one of the worst either. SO much better than del Toro’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark from 2011, though. That’s for sure. Yuck!
Score: 3 out of 5 stars for Mama
*side note: encouragement to all you short-film filmmakers out there! Keep doing what you’re doing. One day, someone may see your work and decided to produce your project into a full-length feature like Andrés Muschietti. How cool is that for him?
Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!
–T, The Focused Filmographer