Director: Andres Muschietti
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nelisse, Daniel Kash
A mother’s love is forever
Five years ago, a business man runs away with his two small girls and takes them out to an abandoned cabin in the woods. He has just killed a few of his friends and his ex-wife and he can’t take the mental torment anyone and ends his life in front of his little children.
It takes these five years for someone to locate the children and they are not in a great state. They have survived with a little help and by their own natural instincts and are pretty wild when they are given to the care of their uncle Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel. While they are trying to make them accustomed to the regular life, they soon find out that they have brought something else with them, a dangerous supernatural force with deep motherly love for these two girls.
Mama is based on a short film with the same title that was made back in 2008 by the same director that did this feature film. It was first when Guillermo del Toro noticed the short film that the production of this film started and it received a decent amount of attention because of del Toro and did quite well for itself when it was finally released earlier this year in theatres.
The first thing that surprised me was how fancy this thing looked. I was shocked to see that they had a budget of 15 million dollars to make a horror film. It is not so often that horror films get a big budget like that, although compared to other films of other genres this is still considered to be a cheap film. The expensive look of the film does have some downsides to it as it feels less real and it is harder to scare you when it looks like you are watching a big budget Hollywood movie.
A big budget also allows for better special effects or just a lot of effects, and sadly this movie went for the latter. My biggest gripe with this film is how much CGI there is in it and how it makes all the scares ineffective. The main creature is shown too much and it looks like something from an animated film and just very fake. I can only imagine how much more scary this film could have turned out if they went with practical effects and toned the creature down instead. Imagine something like Zelda from Pet Sematary as this creature and you can see where my mind is wandering here.
The creature, plus the last ten minutes makes this feel almost like a Disney attempt at creating a horror film. It blurs the line between horror and fantasy too much and ends up being a little bit of both. If they had went this route with the entire movie and not also tried to scare the viewers, then it might have worked better.
The emotional part of the film would also work much more if I was invested in the characters. I didn’t care that much for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as uncle Lucas (he also plays his brother in the opening, so I guess they were twins or something like that). He is set up to be the main character and the one we are supposed to feel for, but midway through the film he gets put in the hospital and it is his girlfriend that we follow closely instead.
Her name is Annabel and she is played by Jessica Chastain. Annabel is a rocker who we are believed to not be happy with the idea of settling in to a normal family life. That is however introduced but abandoned as soon as Lucas ends in the hospital and she ends up becoming an average woman even though it shows that Chastain is a good actress.
The real stars of the film though is young Megan Charpenter and Isabelle Nelisse as the children, Victoria and Lilly. They both give impressive performances for being that young, playing these almost animal like children while still keeping their performances natural when they become more and more “normal” again.
I can’t say I was that impressed with the direction by Andres Muschietti. Although there are some beautiful shots in the film, the pacing feels a bit choppy, none of the scares are very effective and the ending feels almost like it was shot for another movie. Perhaps it was just too big of a production for a first time director.
Mama is not a bad film, but it was a huge disappointment. The praise it received during its theatrical run made me excited to see it, but I found very little to enjoy here. It feels like it had potential, but the focus was cluttered somewhere. It is an ok watch, but not something that will be remembered in years to come.