OSW Review | Mama (2013)

Mama (2013)

I included a clip instead of the trailer. Whoever made the trailer doesn’t know anything about horror, or playing to this film’s strengths. The trailer would actually turn you off seeing this movie.

Plot: 2 young, newly-orphaned children are left in the woods. When they are eventually found 5 years later, they are feral and speak of a protective force called “Mama”.

Cast: Written/Directed by Andrés Muschietti, E.P. Guillermo del Toro. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (aka The King Slayer! Jaime Lannister, Game of Thrones) plays both the father & uncle to the kids (as identical twins). Jessica Chastain (Maya, Zero Dark Thirty) plays his girlfriend Annabel, the daughters Victoria & Lilly (played by Megan Charpentier – Red Queen from Resident Evil 5, and Isabelle Nélisse – Simone from Whitewash respectively). The girls are put in adoptive care of their uncle & girlfriend at Casterly Rock their house.

Thoughts on the film :
• Within minutes of the film you’ll see how creepy and higher-quality this film is.
• Excellent use of shot composition (like shooting the hall, while being able to see into rooms in front of and behind it) and wonderful camera movement, giving a really very creepy atmosphere. There’s a scene where the camera pans watching Annabel, but in the darkness, Lilly (the younger, more detached, feral girl) comes out of a box – sounds contrived but it’s unsettling, the film has lots of ’em and it’s great. Seeing the two kids in the new house walking around is sad and captivating.
• The foreboding by odd-happenings/presence around the house is great, such as Lilly gleefully playing tug-of-war with a bedsheet with something off-camera.
• Andrés Muschietti uses 16:9 aspect ratio. Thank you.
• Perfect mix of expected scares, jump scares and building tension/creepiness.
• Gradual unveiling of Mama (who is CG) is done really very well. You know how Jeepers Creepers went terrible when you saw the ghost? This is not that. Short bursts used judiciously throughout the film, increasing as you find out more. It couldn’t be done physically so doing this was the best you could do. Top notch stuff.
• Lilly is FANTASTIC. And I hate child actors. The use of CG with the kids being ferral is brilliant. Her unnatural movement, emaciated/disheveled look is constantly unsettling. They only need them to be animalistic/contort for a handful of shots and it’s very effective and freaky.
• Annabel has a great story arc. She’s the girlfriend, bassist in a rock band helping out as a good girlfriend, becomes a completely reluctant mother figure. I was surprised and intrigued how she became the primary ‘good guy’. She literally starts off her story saying thanking God she’s not pregnant/not a mother! How she drives herself does seem a bit odd seeing how powerful Mama is.
• As if rehabilitating these kids, being related and their protector isn’t enough, Lucas’ brother’s mother-in-law is looking to gain custody of the children. You hate her in the short amount of screen-time she gets, well done.
• There is a nice but not-altogether-that-important plot twist/revelation.
• Flashbacks have a change/lack of colours and it’s beautiful.
• The use of children, and protecting them against a supernatural foe, use of insects (moths instead of flies), the way information is uncovered, use of psychiatric tapes, recalling shots from earlier in the movie, splicing past with present footage, and where the final act/confrontation takes place is very reminiscent of The Ring. Considering that’s my favourite horror movie, that’s a great thing. It’s perfectly laid out, makes sense, an unexpected explanation, the characters evolve/change, and all comes back around. Excellent.

Ok I must have some negatives….!

• They re-use the ‘saw’/Rear Window use-a-camera-as-a-light-source terrifying trick that does work, although it’s not that new, it’s still creepy.
• It was lame when “M-A-M-A-M-A-M-A-M-A-“[etc] showed up on a hospital display. Boo!
• Lucas had a smaller role than I would’ve hoped. But this gives way to a much better story arc (Annabel’s) so again, not really a complaint!
• There’s a scene that overstays it’s welcome a little and shows their kids’ acting up.
These negatives are all very small compared to the wealth of positives of this film.

OVERALL : Go and see Mama! It may remind you of other films, but it’s one of the creepiest films I’ve seen in a long time. Lilly is brilliant & for once the child actors are great! One of Jay’s rare HIGH recommendations!


Release Date
April 29, 2015