Mama: Review

Posted 17/06/2013


Usually when a film is billed as ‘presented by’ a director who didn’t actually direct it, we’re skeptical. But ‘Mama’ is touted as presented by Guillermo del Toro, who actually served as executive producer overseeing first-time director Andy Muschietti, and it definitely bears the fingerprints of his dark, visually stylized approach to scaring the heck out of audiences. Plus, unlike most horror movies by unknown directors, this one boasts an Oscar nominee: Jessica Chastain, in a performance just as committed as in ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’

When their parents are killed, two little girls are left abandoned in the woods, where they vanish for five years. Their uncle Luke (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) never gives up searching for them—but he’s shocked when Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) actually turn up alive. And his girlfriend, tattooed punk bass player Annabel (Chastain), isn’t too happy about taking in two damaged—and frankly creepy!—kids who’ve been living in the wild. Not to mention the fact that a mysterious evil apparition the girls call Mama seems to have moved in with them too. Hey, blended families are challenging!

Horror movies are often loaded with clichés, but ‘Mama’ feels totally fresh in how it sets up a sinister mood and builds suspense. The chilling visuals are also distinctive, like the black mold that spreads when Mama is near… which makes for a truly scary, not silly, thriller.

Chastain is flawless as usual, and the two child actresses are amazingly intense—little Lilly, who eats bugs and scampers around like an animal, might freak you out more than Mama! This is horror done well, with style, drama, and complex characters. ‘Mama’ proves that to make a truly terrifying movie experience, you don’t need to splatter gore or pile up the body count. The scariest scares are the ones that play on your deep psychic fears, and that’s what this film does so well.

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