A Mother’s love is forever.
MAMA is the newly extended supernatural thriller from director Andrés Muschietti, who’s short film MAMá garnered the attention of executive producer Guillermo del Toro, who is responsible for getting Muschietti’s film to the big screen. MAMA is definitely del Toro inspired and reminiscent of his other dark horrors (Pan’s Labyrinth, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark). Jessica Chastain as Annabel (and girlfriend to Lucas), a rocker who takes on the reluctant role as a mother figure to two feral girls, and Game of Thrones Nikolaj Coster-Waldau playing as twin brothers (Lucas and Jeffery) in the film takes more of a back seat in all the baby mama drama, with the film’s appropriately intense focus is on these two little girls and an unsettling apparition who wants nothing more than to be a ghostly mama to two girls. In a barrage of special effects, rehashing of old scare ideas and tactics, it will be impossible to assess this film as unique, but in the end, it works. Warning: there be spoilers.
The film begins with Jeffery (Coster-Waldau) in a very real, and very terrifying situation–he has just murdered his co-workers and his wife due to the financial collapse. He kidnaps his young daughters Lilly, and Victoria to a cabin in the woods where he is intent on killing them–but before he does, something ungodly gets to him first. Fast forward five years later, Jeffery’s brother Lucas (also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), after exhausting his fortune on trying to locate his brother and nieces. He finds them with the help of local hunters–but they are not alone.
Not the mama
After winning a custody battle for the girls’ over a meddling Aunt Jean (Moffat); Luke and Annabel are now the proud parents of Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) and Victoria (Megan Charpentier). With the insistence of Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) that he maintains access to the girls, due to Victoria possible dissociative identity disorder–he believes that Victoria made up “mama” to compensate for being alone all those years–they all soon realize “mama” is very real and she is still visiting the girls. The film does go into the origins of MAMA, and her back story is a disturbing one but not unique (escaped mental patient who has lost a child–to an orphanage)–she is as protective of the girls in a moral amoral fashion–and gets jealous that Annabel, though reluctant, is there to take her place. There must be something about the afterlife that causes these apparitions to be automatic haters of the living.
Amazingly, MAMA‘s transition to the big screen is executed flawlessly. The co-writers made sure to maintain the horror mystique of MAMA, and did very well in transforming Muschietti’s MAMA into a three-dimensional character. Perhaps as the film progresses, it causes viewers become sympathetic to her plight. In her own way, she loves these little girls and will do anything to protect them. When the film reaches that pinnacle moment where the girls must decide if they want to remain with MAMA or their new family is pretty intense. Even more surprising is their final choice.
The men in the film do not stick around. Lucas, like his twin, are kept mostly out of the way–permanently in Jeffery’s case. In addition, do not expect Dr. Dreyfuss to hang around much, either. The film brings in these significant male characters then completely “drops” their significance in the story. Heck, why even have them involve themselves to only lessen their importance in the film. Chastain and her character’s lack of parenting interest and skills were for the most part off setting. The film clearly wants you to know that this is a woman who does not want kids from the very beginning–she nearly threw a celebration party when her pregnancy test came back negative. She contemplated giving up her band more than considering continuing her relationship with kids. Chastain too, just as Coster-Waldau takes a less than enthusiastic role in the film.
The kids. It is all about the children. MAMA in a way is two films. The interesting parts of the film are Lily and Veronica’s relationship with MAMA; this and only this relationship make for a successful film. Of course, there are several moments during the film that offer up decent scares, but you are never on-the-edge-of-your-seat, and the ending–well I’ve seen better. The film relies heavily on extremely LOUD blasts of suspenseful music whenever MAMA reveals her ghostly form. The appearance of the entity itself is striking. No doubt that this is a good looking film. Overall, MAMA somewhat successfully rehashes a few horror genre types and successfully takes advantage of the “creepy children” movie genre. Is it a genre? I guess it is.
If only for the atmosphere that only a theater can create, MAMA is definitely worth checking out.
Source Universal Pictures