Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mama (2013)

Director:  Andy Muschietti
Written by:  Andres & Barbara Muschietti
Starring:  Jessica Chastain (Annabel), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Lucas/Jeffrey), Megan Charpentier (Victoria), Isabelle Nelisse (Lilly), Javier Botet (Mama)

"Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years.... but how alone were they?" - IMDb

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"A ghost is an emotion bent out of shape, condemned to repeat itself time and time again." - Dr. Dreyfuss' secretary

With Guillermo Del Toro's brand on the movie & the Muschietti's promising direction and story, Mama is one of the better horror films I have seen in the recent years. 

(SPOILERS ALERT - if you haven't seen the film yet, just go straight to The Verdict & my rating)

Granted that it is not perfect and it may not be hard-core scary to some, the beauty of this film lies in its unsettling visuals & compelling story more than anything. The movie starts with "Once upon a time" and that alone tells us that this is a fairy tale - a dark, sad, twisted fairy tale typical of a Del Toro imagination. And this time, the central character of the fairy tale is The Evil Witch. Not Snow White, not Hansel & Gretel, nor Cinderella. So to those disappointed with the ending, wanting some explanations, looking for what they think is a much-needed epilogue, again, this is Mama's fairy tale and the story ends with Mama's "happily ever after."

I don't have anything much to say with regards to the plot, but I can't help but wonder, if Mama was as protective, jealous, & selfish when it comes to her "babies" how come she has let the two guys rescue Victoria & Lilly? The only reason I could think of is that she's probably out gathering some cherries. Another thing, after five years of uncivilized life in the cabin, it's actually a wonderful mystery to see that the kids still have perfect teeth. Good parenting, Mama!

One of the films achievements is that they have created this central "villain" capable of evoking sympathy from the audience (or me, at least) -- a seemingly malevolent spirit intent on bringing death to anyone who tries to get her "babies", but then we see her softer side. Yes she has killed a nun when she was alive, maybe she's deranged, maybe she's desperate to get her baby back, I don't know, does that make her evil? No, it only shows that she is a bat-shit crazy woman just wanting to be a mother to her child. Dysfunctional, yes, not necessarily evil. But she killed people you say? Yes, she killed the kids' Daddy who was about to shoot his daughter in the head. She killed the doctor who is more intent on the progress of his research than for the welfare of the kids. She killed the meddlesome aunt who only entered the picture after the kids are found.
She is a jealous mother, but she is also sympathetic to her "kids". When she was about to harm Annabel, Victoria begged her to stop, & she honored her wishes. She plays with her kids. She coaxes them but she never forces them. I particularly liked the scene where Victoria said "Mama is mad", and they ran away from her. It's a nice touch, because haven't we all ran away from our mothers when they are mad? She has never hurt them. All she did was protect them, care for them, and love them the only way she knows how. And she's intent to protect that bond that she has shared with them for five years. It's a sad story actually. 

I also find it interesting to see Victoria's glasses being taken off, either by her or others, as a symbolism of her consciousness to what's happening around her. Her dad takes it off because he doesn't want him to see what he's about to do. She takes it off when she joins her sister & Mama's presence because upon coming back to urban life and slowly getting acclimated to civilization again, she knows something's wrong with Mama, but she chooses to turn a blind eye because of the love, however weird, that they have shared. And lastly, Mama taking off her glasses, is somehow bittersweet to me, because it's Mama's final plea to her "baby" to come back to her arms, to go back to where they were most happy, in their home in the cabin.

What I didn't like is the over-CGI'd Mama. I've only found out after watching the movie that there was actually an actor (Javier Botet) behind Mama and that he did most of the scenes. It kind of disappointed me because they could have made Mama more natural looking instead of giving her a CGI-finished look which reminded me of Silent Hill or some other video games. 

See the actor, & inspiration for the Mama-look HERE

Jessica Chastain as usual gave a solid acting performance, although I'm not entirely sold with her "rocker chick" look. I'm not used to seeing Nikolaj Coster-Waldau out of his Game of Thrones garb, esp. him playing a nice, selfless uncle, but I could say that he did okay. Charpentier is great as the torn Victoria, but the best performance I've seen in this movie is Nelisse's Lilly. I give her 5 stars just for saying this line "Come. Victoria. Mama." and to me that was a powerful scene. Lilly deserves her mama. That's all I can say.

"Don't close the closet"
In terms of the horror aspect, I've seen bits from The Exorcist, The Ring/Ringu, The Grudge, Paranormal Activity, & Insidious, but it's easily forgivable because of the storytelling. I was too engaged to the characters & the story to even care if the scare tactics are a rip-off or not. I do think though that Mama was overexposed, it could have been more chilling and unsettling if we learn of Mama's backstory (if it really was needed) through the eyes and mouth of the kids, much like the hypnosis sessions of Dr. Dreyfuss to Victoria. 

The Verdict: 

Mama may not be the perfect horror flick, but it sure has all the right elements of a good movie. The horror is palpable, the story is well-crafted, the cinematography is perfect for the setting, the music/ambient sounds are chilling, and while I can't say that the whole cast gave a solid performance I think it's safe to say that the two girls are the stars in this movie. I love that the terror is almost tangible perfectly backed up by the dark yet stunning visuals reminiscent of Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. Not a disappointing first film for Andy Muschietti, because even though the elements in this movie are not original, he has managed to put in his own flavor, twist an already familiar bits & pieces from popular horror movies and turn it into something effectively chilling without making us feel cheated. The cliches worked. At least for me. I'm looking forward to another Del Toro-Muschietti collaboration.

My Rating:  

3.5/5 - this movie ruined the sweet word "mama" for me. Creepy. 

Creepiness Factor: 

3/5 - the CGI & Mama's overexposure may put you off, still, there are several scenes which can truly wig you out.

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MAMA (Andy Muschietti, 2008) 

Intense build-up, well-directed, and Mama is creepier here in an organic way. Click HERE to watch and see why Del Toro was inspired to turn this into a feature film.

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If you are Annabel, would you have bailed or stayed?

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  1. PERFECT REVIEW ... I can't add one thing that you did'nt cover.... And yes, I would have stayed if I were Annabel, simply because of motherly instincts and feeling sorry for those 2 little girls ....

  2. I do hope though you will reconsider your feelings on the name Mama, as I called my mom this name all of life . :) lol

  3. I think i would have bailed LOL. to be left alone in that big house, and you already feel that presence. oh my god. i would have run to the streets screaming and foaming in the mouth. Of course I wouldn't leave the kids.... I'd probably take them to the hospital where Uncle is, and we'd camp out there.

    awww, well it just creeped me out the way "mama" was used in the film :) i call my mom mama too :)

  4. lol hahahhahaa.... You made me laugh wth the frantic-thoughts of foaming at the mouth and yelling in the streets.... wahahahaahaha camping out at the hospital sounds fun .... O_O lol

  5. LOL it's highly probable that's what i would do if ever i saw Mama O_O or just drop dead in an instant



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