By: James Holtz, We Watched A Movie
Directed by: Andres Muschietti (First Feature Film)
Starring: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (“Game of Thrones”)
Mama starts off with a deeply disturbing moment between a father and his two girls who end up abandoned (for lack of a better word) in a small shack in the woods. They are found by their Uncle Lucas (Coster-Waldau) years later with no understanding of how they survived. They are however… different. Almost like wild animals and they keep creepily mumbling mama over and over again. Annabel (Chastain) is Lucas’ girlfriend. A punk rocker who isn’t all too keen on the idea of giving up her lifestyle for a couple of creepy kids at first. But as she and the kids grow closer whoever or whatever was caring for the girls before decides to object.
It’s a shock to see that the only credit to Director Andres Muschietti’s name is a short of the same title because Mama looks great and is shot well. There are a few too many close up CGI shots of a few of the darker things in Mama but that’s a tiny gripe. The horror imagery is amazing and one extremely original sequence in which Annabel is dreaming is so vivid and creepy it left me with my mouth wide open staring at the screen like an idiot.
Mama is not quite the straight up horror that the trailer may lead you to believe. It’s part horror, part dark fantasy but the two lines blend together well and although I went in the theater for a horror film, I did not come out disappointed. There is enough elements of both to please most fans of either genre, even throwing in a good jump scare every now and then. It’s really easy to care about the films characters, especially the little girls in peril and that’s something most horror films lack. (See Texas Chainsaw 3D) The story here is definitely engrossing but that’s not to say it’s perfect. The script fails to explain key elements at times and can’t really keep up with the excellent atmosphere the rest of the film is treating us to.
Was anyone else surprised and excited to see an actress of Chastain’s caliber in a horror film? She makes her role look as easy as you would expect her to, hitting all the right notes. I also found Nikolaj Coster-Waldau extremely likeable and the two creepy little girls nailed it. The only misfire here seems to come from Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) whom to his credit is poorly written. He is the Doctor who takes an over interest in the girls after they are found and his motives seem to change like the wind. He is meant to drive the plot forward yet every time he comes on the screen things become less interesting.
Mama has the scares to make a good horror film, the imagery and atmosphere to be a good fantasy film and the character development to make you actually give a damn about both. It doesn’t really stick with you enough to be called a great horror film but it is well made and has a better cast and story than most. Mama definitely has enough scares and intrigue to make for a good time at the movies.