I may not get this review done today. I’m writing this on Sunday while watching the final NFL playoff games. None of the teams left really mean anything to me, but since it is nearing the end of the season, I’m not going to get picky about who is playing. I know, I do a lot of guy things. Watch football, watch horror movies...at least I don’t work on cars. That is one area I’m completely clueless. I guess the two I did mention mostly comes from growing up with just my dad. He loved both of those things, and I have good memories of doing those things with him. My goal is to at least get half way through this review tonight, and then finish it off after work tomorrow. As you can see, I decided I had enough money to go out and see the world. The world being between my house and the theater at least. I probably didn’t need to spend the money to see Mama, but I do enjoy going to the theater. Most of the time at least!
Once upon a time, Jeffery (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) kills some of his co-workers before heading home. While his oldest daughter is waiting for her mom to take her to school, Jeffery kills his wife and then takes his two daughters with him as he makes a run for it. While driving on snow covered roads, he crashes. All are okay though, if a little banged up. Finding a cabin, Jeffery takes his daughters there and starts a fire for them. As he tries to figure out what to do, he goes to kill his daughters, but something stops him from doing that. Five years later, Jeffery’s brother Lucas (a double role for Coster-Waldau) has not given up his search for them. Two men working for Lucas manage to find the car, and his nieces, who are still alive but very feral. Victoria (Megan Charpentier) is now 8 or 9 years old and still has some memories of her life before. Lily (Isabelle Nelisse) is now 5 or 6 years old and tends to be more feral than her sister. After a small court battle, Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), who doesn’t feel ready to have kids, is able to take them in and take care of the two girls. Doctor Dreyfus (Daniel Kash) is interested in girls, mostly because he wants to write a book about them but also because they were under his care. He believes that they were somehow able to survive on their own the last five years despite the girls telling him that Mama helped them. In the doctors mind, Mama is someone they simply made up, but we know better. Now Mama has followed them to their new home, but what is it that she wants?
Even though Guillermo del Toro has his name all over Mama, he is actually just one of the producers. Even so, you can still get the feel of one of his movies here. At least part of it. Mama isn’t just a ghost to be afraid of. While Mama doesn’t get a big back story, there is enough of one for you to understand her motives a little better. While I did enjoy the story, it did leave a little to be desired. I guess what annoyed me the most was the characters of Lucas and Annabel. We don’t get much of a chance to get to know Lucas since he taken out, not dead or anything but out of the story, somewhat early. Even when he does come back in, he is just barely there. Annabel is someone I can relate to a little bit. I haven’t had a desire to have kids, so I get where she is coming from. However, neither has much of a job. Lucas is an artist and Annabel is in rock group. Neither has a whole lot of money since Lucas makes the comment he has spent most of his on the search for the kids. The doctor does help them out, but it still seems unlikely that a judge would turn over two kids who will need a lot of care over to them. But then, it is only a movie. I think I get why Mama went after the guys, and completely ignored Annabel for the most part. It took some thinking on that, and I’m not really sure I am right. The high points for me was the two girls. I wouldn’t think that the way director Andres Muschietti got them to act, especially Lily, was an easy thing to do. I have to give a lot of credit to Muschiette for getting those performances, and to the girls for giving them. I also should give Muschiette and the writers credit for not giving us a completely happy ending. It looks to be going that way, and apparently some people wanted it to end that way, but there is a little twist that get dragged out a little too long really.
You won’t find anything gory here. It is a PG-13 film after all, not that some haven’t been on the gory side before. There are no gore effects, but there are plenty of CGI effects. These are all for Mama though. She is played by Javier Botet, but the CGI dominates how she looks and moves. While she looks interesting when we can just barely see her, due to seeing through blurry eyes or she is in shadow, seeing her full on didn’t scare me at all. One scene where we just see her hair above the floor boards looked rather silly in fact. Actually I’m getting tired of the whole hair thing that seems to invaded our horror movies thanks to Japan and other countries in that area. Getting a ghosts hair tangled around me just isn’t how I think of ghosts. Sure it was cool coming from the Japanese since it is a different culture, but it is getting old and has been a joke for spoofs for a good while now. The acting was actually really good. I have already talked about Charpentier and Nelisse some. Jessica Chastain ends up being the main character, at least for the adults. I didn’t have any problems with the acting, and felt everyone did a great job with their roles.
Even though Mama may not cause hardcore horror fans feel scared, or even jump for that matter, Mama does offer up some creepy moments at least. Like seeing Lily playing tug-of-war with a blanket that her sister took from her moments ago. We assume that is who she is playing with until we see Victoria in the hall. It was the little things that helped move this one along. I can’t say that I hated Mama, not by a long shot, but I didn’t find it as good as what I thought I would by the end of it. In the end I sort of wish I had waited and rented this one once it was out on DVD. Sunday it was the number one film here in the USA, but then horror films tend to do well in this part of the year since there just isn’t much else coming out to go up against them. Even so, Mama didn’t make a whole lot of money, and will likely make less this next weekend. I really wish I could tell you all to go out there and catch this one while you can. Being at number one will keep it in the theaters for a little longer, at least some of the bigger theaters. I haven’t read too many bad reviews, outside of the critics at least, but they aren’t real good either...mine included. Worth a look, but as a rental. Save your movie money for something else.
3 out of 5 I sure am glad I didn’t have her as a mom!