We all like to be scared when going to a scary, or suspenseful horror movie. "Mama" and movies like this, rely on suspense, building up of tension to bring on the scares through out the movie. This movie doesn't rely on gore or grisly deaths to shock the viewer, but tension and the illusion as to what one sees and hears.
The question is does this movie effectively do that for the viewer. The answer is a double edge
blade. On one hand it does frighten, but more on a character level. On the other hand which is the movie level I felt it falls flat.
The story for "Mama" is a simple one. Two girls father comes home after killing two people at work and kills his estranged wife and takes the kids away. They have an accident and their speeding car goes off the road and they take refuge in an old dilapidated cabin. The father decides he is going to kill the daughters there and take his own life, but an entity in the cabin stops them.
Five years later the girls' uncle is still looking for them and his brother. They are finally found and are brought home to life with their uncle and his girlfriend. That is when trouble sets in.
Don't be fooled by the advertisements. This isn't directed by Guillermo del Tor, he is an executive producer. The movie is directed and partly written by Andrés Muschietti. While Andrés handles the camera well through out the film, building the tension and trying to creep us, the movie-goes out, I feel that he takes too long to get where he needs to be going. There are times when the tension is building and things start to turn creepy but end up falling flat because, if you have seen the many trailers for this film, you pretty much seen most of the big scare scenes.
What he does well though is give us a very intense and very frightening creature in the character Mama. From the looks of the character, to her movements, to the character's sounds, Mama is one frightening creature. That works well throughout the movie which at least gives you some decent frightening moments, especially one very frightening scene near the end back at the cabin.
The movie though falls into the trap of building too slowly. This in turn makes the movie start to feel very repetitive throughout the production and more than a few times I was checking to see how long we had left. The crowd at the cinema that night was in the same boat. I don't think one person there, aside from my wife, reacted to any of the scare scenes that were added for jump effect. This is where I feel that it fails as a horror film. Some scenes and a character or two could have been trimmed or even left out of the movie, such as the children's aunt. I felt that her character was completely unnecessary and could have been written out altogether. She has a scene later on in the film that made me groan and roll my eyes as to why it was even added.
Now the movie isn't a total write off. The acting was great. Jessica Chastain from "Zero Dark Thirty" gives a great performance as Annabel the girlfriend to the uncle. She's almost unrecognizable with her jet black hair, tattoos, and eyeliner. She's a rocker at heart but stands by her man in his trials of bringing up these feral children they pulled from the woods. You really feel for her throughout the movie because she's pretty much left alone to raise these children that she really doesn't want around.
The two children, Megan Charpentier as Victoria and Isabelle Nelisse as Lilly were terrific in the movie, especially Isabelle as Lilly. She had a very cute but very creepy side to her as she was the one most attached to Mama. Just by her facial expressions and eyes you could tell that something was terribly wrong with this child. Her sister Victoria was the most developed of the two children and has the more serious part of the two. Megan does a great job in portraying a child that is torn between family and the attachment that is waning with Mama.
The pace at the start of the film I felt was a little rushed but once it slowed down, it almost slowed to a crawl.
Over all I give his movie 3 stars out of 5. It's not a terrible movie but it just isn't that great as a horror movie. It needed more frights for the dollar, and ones that you couldn't see coming. When you go for scares and the audience isn't reacting to them you have a problem on your hands. It did take teh weekend box office last weeking taking in 30 million so something seems to have worked in it's favor.
If you plan on seeing this in the cinema, wait until a matinee, don't rush in and pay full price. If you elect to pass on it, at least rent it when it's out on VOD or on DVD/Blu ray. It's definitely worth rental price, just not full theatre ticket price. Till next time my friends