Monday, October 14, 2013



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...
JSP’s thoughts: As someone who is sick to death of vengeful ghost movies I was quite taken with this film. I love the dull green/yellow color scheme used throughout and the acting, particularly by the older child Victoria, is outstanding for such a little twerp. Likewise the actress who played Annabelle gave another stellar performance. Strong character development can make or break a film and this is an example of a character who changes significantly by the time the credits roll. 

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." 


Catfreeek said...

I saw this in the theater when it came out and did jump a few times. Totally agree about the over use of Mama later in the film but the beginning sequences with her were quite creepy. Also, the youngest girl was pretty damn creepy herself.

AC said...

i'm impressed. it takes a lot to scare or creep out our venerable veterans of horror.

JPX said...

Excellent review guys!

I saw this in the theater and while I agree with much of your review I think I would rate this **1/2. The acting was excellent, as you note, and there are some genuine scares in the first half of the film, but I was completely distracted with the CGI in the latter part of the film which neutered any scares for me. I still maintain that CGI should be left out of horror. There is nothing scary about a computer witch. Practical effects are so much more effective (for me, at least).

DCD said...

I remember wanting to see this when it came out. Putting it on the list!