Johnny Sweatpants’ rating: ***1/2
Crystal Math’s rating: ****1/2
Guillermo del Toro produced this and his stamp of approval assures that the film is filled with childlike wonder and genuinely creepy imagery. In present-day Virginia, a family man murders his wife and kidnaps his two daughters. He doesn't get far because Victoria, the older one, keeps asking annoying questions and he crashes the car into a tree. They seek refuge in a cabin, wood is put in the hearth for a fire, and all seems well for only a few moments. Suddenly the father is taken out of the picture and an angry ghost referred to as "Mama" looks after Victoria and Lilly.
Five years later the girls are discovered and rescued. They have been living in squalid conditions but they are alive nonetheless. After a thorough psychiatric analysis, custody is granted to cool uncle Lucas and his rockstar girlfriend Annabel. The two reluctantly agree to raise them and get them acclimated to society. But with the adoption of his two nieces Lucas has also inherited "Mama," and here the terror begins.
|Just a mother and child reunion...|
CGI has come a long way and it is only a matter of time before it becomes scarier than reality. Mama’s appearances throughout the first half of the film gave me a genuine case of the willies. Unfortunately Mama was given too much screen time during the climax and this, along with the overbearing music score, softened the overall impact.
Crystal's thoughts: I knew precious little about this movie before watching it (as I have done with most horror movies I've reviewed these past two years) and I have found that this works to my advantage. If there's a director or actor I like, it's a pleasant and genuine surprise. If there's a wicked sweet plot twist at the end, it's a disgusting and genuine scare. Mama's story was multi-layered, new and forward-thinking (to me) in the realm of telling a horror story and I wouldn't have expected any less from del Toro. I'll concede that the finale was over-dramatic but that's what makes it accessible to a diverse audience, not just horror-fanatics; I found it sentimental and peaceful.
My favorite character was Lucas' girlfriend Annabel, portrayed here by Zero Dark Thirty's adorable redhead Jessica Chastain. She took the lead when she needed to and grew over the course of the movie and didn't introduce any unnecessary drama, and embodied the badass attitude that comes with being in a rock band. I'd recommend Mama to veterans and newcomers alike of the genre of horror.
As a final thought, I couldn't help but recall this Genesis gem, also entitled "Mama."