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If you're into old-school scares over cheap gore, you'll be able to get over Mama's confusing script and contrived plot devices.
All Critics (160)
| Top Critics (39)
| Fresh (104)
| Rotten (56)
| DVD (1)
The problem is that [the] movie barely meets the minimum generic requirements, and thus comes off as pretentious for presuming to hover so airily above them.
[The movie] has more integrity than its creepshow peers. The story basically comes down to a dead-looking woman who doesn't want to be a mother fighting for parental custody against a long-dead woman who does. (Grad students, start your theses.)
Extended from a 2008 short and starring Jessica Chastain, this has become a proficient, machine-tooled horror flick.
By splitting the action between several different characters and locations, the plot dissipates the suspense and lacks focus, as if it has been bolted together from disparate, ill-fitting pieces.
Screenplay contrivances aside, it's as stylish and atmospheric as modern horror gets.
Even if the beats are familiar, Muschietti sustains a remarkable mood throughout: wintry, elemental and stark, like a late Sylvia Plath poem.
Never quite feels like the sum of its parts, devolving disappointingly into a nuts 'n' bolts chiller with sparse originality of its own.
Chastain is certainly the biggest reason to see Mama, but... The young actresses playing the girls can hold their own.
One of the few horror films that feels more character-driven and isn't just a monster-of-the-week jump scare fest.
While Mama is occasionally hamstrung by cliches, it is a stylish and effective ghost story that lives up to its promise, delivering spine-tingling scares.
It will make you shiver with fear, but it might also make you question what passes for "natural" when it comes to motherhood.
While its finale gestures at something emotional, getting there involves mucho familiar multiplex filler: loud screeches and some pretty silly business involving the girls' sinister way with wax crayons.
The premise is quite interesting and the first half wonderful uncomfortable. The Actors are doing a good job and there are a few neat jump scares. Much creepier is the sound design, though, which makes for an outrageously creepy scene, together with a camera flash. Unfortunately, the more often and the longer you see the monster, the more its CGI is obvious, which kinda takes you out of the experience. The showdown on a cliff looks like a classic goth setting but ends at least somewhat surprisingly. Not bad for a scary evening but with some wasted potential as far as the creature is concerned.
It is frustrating to see an efficient (and very scary) short movie adapted into such a weak feature film that, despite some creepy moments and good visual effects, is sadly bogged down by a pile of cheap scares, clichés and inconsistencies.
Though Mexican director Guillermo del Toro did not direct this film, his fingerprints are indelibly placed all over this film. He has a producing credit and is always presenting in advertising, but it is director Andres Muschietti who brought the concept to the screen. Based on his short film from 2008, this reimagining has a larger emphasis on the specter, Mama's, backstory and places macabre elements into the story. While "Mama" isn't anything new, it is refreshing to see a film that places emphasis on the ethereal and the familiar in its ghosts. Mama is not an interesting character, or a great ghost in the long run. Her presence is always frightening, and the look of her from a peripheral standpoint is freakish, but that's only when she's in the shadows. When she plays with the children, or hides in plain sight, she is scary, as she plays the "other" rather well, but when we finally see her in full view, it's clear she wasn't constructed to be frightening. The character designs in del Toro's films have become much narrower in recent years (Most applicable in "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark") and in this film it's easy to see where his influence changed the look of Mama. Everything else about this film feels a bit done, but that's not to say it's essentially bland. Annabel (Chastain) is an interesting character, who likes her independence, values not being a mother, and has a carefree relationship with her boyfriend Lucas (Coster-Waldau). Are any of these characteristics explored to enhance her character and make the impact of motherhood via adoption apparent compared to Mama's obsession? No. Annabel instead comes off as petty and sallow outcast who is a little cruel towards the kids. The setting was great, the set-up was impeccable, and the kids in this film are perfectly cast and super creepy, but it all feels done before. There's nothing really new here, except in ghost design for the eponymous character.
"Mama" is well-realized film but not one of the most original stories to be told in this genre. It's still pretty good with some nicely directed sequences and Jessica Chastain continuing to astonish with her transformative acting but at the end of the day you see "Mama" coming from a mile away and she's a bit tired.
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