A father (Coster-Waldau), seemingly in a state of desperation abducts his two young daughters and flees with them to a remote cabin in the woods. His intention is to kill them but before he does, a dark entity interjects and kills him instead. For years afterwards, the father's twin brother (Coster-Waldau again) searches for his nieces and eventually finds them. They have went feral and claim to have been looked after by something they refer to as "Mama". However, when they head back to civilisation, "Mama" has no intentions of leaving them alone.
Let me just start by saying that "Mama" is a very frustrating movie. When I say frustrating, I don't mean bad, as this film can't quite be labeled as such. It has many things to recommend it; the deliberate pace; the teasing build up; freaky children; the spectre only hinted at or briefly glimpsed. Director AndrÃ©s Muschietti (or Andy as he's credited) certainly knows how to build tension and raise the goosebumps. He does it so commandingly and assembles two impressive lead actors that are at the forefront of everyone's minds at present; the ubiquitous, two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastian and rising "Games Of Thrones" star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - not to mention two excellent child actors in Megan Charpentier and Isabelle NÃ©lisse, but (forgive me if I'm mistaken here) is the role of executive producer not to produce, or oversee, the financial side of a film, allowing a director to fully express their vision and help with the distribution of the product? If that's the case, then Guillermo del Toro can certainly be seen to have done his side of the bargain on the latter half, as this has reached quite an impressive audience, but on the the former he has to come under scrutiny. When this film is forced into delivering the visuals, they seem cheap and really not up to the standard that a more sophisticated audience are accustomed to. The finale is delivered in such a way that it strips the whole film of the good work that went before. Namely, revealing the spectre too much and too soon. When will filmmakers - particularly those in the horror genre - learn, that less is more? It's not necessary for us to witness the antagonist in full view and allow our minds to be force fed, when it worked so much better when we were kept in the dark. In fairness, it's a poorly written denouement that still falls at the feet of director Muschietti , who co-writes with Neil Cross and sister Barbara Muschietti. They construct a brilliant horror concept with an effective, mother/daughter emotional core, but are simply unable to bring it to any satisfying conclusion. That's exactly where the frustration lies; this film had so much going for it, that it leaves you in disbelief that it's all squandered in contrivances and poor CGI, which ultimately leaves you with the overriding feeling that not all short film's have the ability or mileage for a feature length endeavour.
For the most part, this is a very effective and engaging modern horror but like so many from recent times, it fails to deliver when it really matters. Here's some advice from your "Dada"... expect less and you'll receive more.
One day she decided to tempt fate
A horror film lay ahead
Something she would usually dread.
The picture started
Heart began to race
Palms turned sweaty
But she knew she was in the ready.
A story unfolded with little surprise
Hopes of good began to disappear
No matter which direction it took
Disingenuous it felt and had no hook.
Lead by a female of great skill
Not even her masks could thrill.
A woman who is content to be childless
Becomes the heroine to the lost
Two little girls like to draw and squat
While the males served little purpose to the plot.
A ghostly mother who never forgets
Cannot forgive but protects
Living in walls and dreams
Emotions bent out of shape
The mother could not escape.
No matter how she rose, twisted or turned
Or how idiotic the story burned
Mama could not be feared.
Alas, for this gal, the tale would soon end
Because laughter became her friend
Del Toro had a good thought
But truth be told the director did not.
Happy is the day when the lights brightened
For now the tale of MAMA can be forgotten.
Review: 4 out of 10