Film Review: MAMA ๐ŸŽฌ

Posted: March 5, 2013 in ๐ŸŽฌ Film Reviews


It is not often that I go to the cinema to watch a horror movie due to the fact that most of the contributions to this genre in recent years have been so poor. I have never been a huge fan of the slasher flick revival which dominated the horror scene in the 90s and early 2000s with such films as Scream and I know what you did last summer. With the exception of the first installments of Saw and Final Destination I have not enjoyed any of the recent titles. I much prefer my horrors to be super natural. Movies such as Poltergeist, The Omen and Amityville were far more frightening to me when I was younger than Friday the 13th or Halloween. So imagine my excitement when I saw a trailer for Mama advertising a supernatural horror that will have you scared out of your seat.

When I sat down in the Shaftsbury avenue Cinema to watch Mama, other than the fact that it was produced by Guillermo del Toro who’s work (Pans Labyrinth, Hell Boy) I have enjoyed in the past , I knew nothing else about the movie. The cinema was reasonably seated not too packed and it was an early day time viewing. I was ready to be scared or board whichever came first.

Mama directed by newcomer Andres Muschietti,tells a dark tale of two little girls who are left to reside in the woods after the tragic death of their parents.Years later they are Rescued by their adoring uncle played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from TVโ€™s Game Of Thrones and his far from maternal bass-guitar playing Goth girlfriend (Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty).

The children’s time in the woods have transformed them from beautiful sweet little girls to feral frightened wild animals, and despite their abandonment they do not appear to be alone. Forever cared for by Mama.The overall story becomes a touching tragedy between a mother separated from her child and her desperation to be reunited with him.

Mama lends itself to the old fashioned style of horror film making, less on the gore and more on the scare tactics, which I for one am glad of. Clever usage of light and sound is all that is needed to have you holding your breath and burying yourself into the pit of your chair. On numerous occasions screams could be heard from around the room at parts where the tension was just too much to contain.

What the film does very well is it holds the suspense of the audience from the opening scene up until the reveal. Even after the reveal the film engages us in a thrilling dramatic conclusion. The film looks very slick but not too stylised in any particular way. It’s like the director set out to make a text book well made horror without taking any real risks with the cinematography. In some ways that complements the simplicity of the story itself.

There is very little development of the characters which leaves you feeling a little disconnected at times and possibly is the films biggest downfall. I would have liked to be a little more invested in the characters but there was very little to go on. I would argue that some of the child acting in the film is not up to par and is a little cringe worthy at times but not too distracting to become unwatchable. Jessica Chastain does her best to tie things together and keep us engaged with this newly formed family.

There are a few times where the film becomes very didactic in places and finds itself telling rather than showing us what it wants us to know. There are moments where I felt myself rolling my eyes because of this approach. Depending how invested you are in the narrative and how open minded you are as a person will determined just how believable the plot is.

The CGI used for the Mama character is not bad at all, its usage other than towards the end is in moderation. One thing that the film does do well is to have a consistent presence of Mama even when she is not present on screen.

Overall I found the film enjoyable and scary at times. I was not blown away by this film but did find it really refreshing and genuinely haunting throughout. I am not saying that all audiences will love this film but its definitely a step up from some of the recent installments in this genre. I would recommend you view this in the cinema for the full effect of the sound and lighting to appreciate it fully.


Sebastian Bowen.
The Fishtank Podcast.

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