So how late is this post? Well this movie has been out for nearly a month now. Maybe longer. Probably long enough that it's going to start showing up at the dollar theaters. If it hasn't already. If it were a Black movie, it'd already be out of major theaters. And believe it or not, I actually saw this opening night. But thanks to a frenzied weekend of shooting a few weeks back and the subsequent editing, I'm just now getting around to this review. I hope I can still remember the points I wanted to make about it.
"Mama" is a supernatural thriller that tells the story of Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lily (Isabelle Nelisse) who have disappeared into the woods the day that their mother was murdered. Their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) never gives up hope of finding them. After 5 long years, they are finally rescued in the dilapidated cabin in the woods where they had been living. Lucas and his fiancee Annabel (Jessican Chastain) take them in to raise them as their own, but it quickly becomes apparent that there is someone or something else that the children have brought with them.
Guillermo del Toro has made a name for himself for a while now in the horror department. And I am really slippin' as a horror fan because I haven't seen more than a couple of his flicks. I still have yet to see "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark". But I have yet to hear about one of his films that horror fans don't like. So I decided that this would be the movie where I got back on track. I immediately knew that I made the right choice with the way this one started. There was no slow build up as they made sure to grab you from the beginning with a very effective chilling opening sequence.
The entire premise was on point though. If you've seen even one of the trailers then you know that there was some suspicious entity that has followed the girls. Heck, the name of the movie is "Mama" so what did you think it was eluding to? But I really liked how they didn't go the obvious route with it. **SLIGHT SPOILER COMING** I could have sworn that Mama would literally be their mom's spirit. Of course del Toro didn't make it that easy though. The actual backstory was even better as it tied in a twisted insane asylum from years past. Maybe "American Horror Story" Season Two should have had del Toro do the writing.
That little Isabelle was amazing as Lily. Both of the girls played their roles extremely well, but there was just something extra about the younger one. She seriously made you believe that she was a confused little girl who was unable to adapt to regular surroundings. That she had accepted the supernatural environment she had been living in as if it was perfectly ordinary. She played that part a little TOO well. I was beginning to wonder if that girl may not be slightly disturbed in real life which made her be such a natural.
The only real problem I had with "Mama" is there were too many moments that the people were falling victim to the oldest horror movie cliche out there. Who in their right mind would go out in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night? ESPECIALLY if you thought there was some evil entity out there. That's fine if you feel the need to check on your hunch by visiting the place, but at least do it in the daytime. And even then you may want to take a friend or two just in case.
Besides that one minor drawback, "Mama" was an overall good flick. It had been a while since I had seen a good ghost story on the big screen. Not to mention one that wasn't entirely predictable. The ending was not what I expected at all with the final face-off against "Mama". Yet when you see how the story unraveled to the end it made perfect sense. Bravo del Toro. I definitely need to be checking out out more of your work.
My rating: A -