Director: Andres Muschietti
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nelisse
Plot: Five years after being left abandoned in the woods following their father's death, sisters Victoria and Lilly are finally found and handed over to their uncle Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel. However, an entity that has looked after the children for those missing five years doesn't take too kindly to being replaced.
Review: This is yet another film that uses Guillermo del Toro's name as a marketing tool. While it's always good to have the creator of Pan's Labyrinth's name to back up one's film, it's even better if the film is close to being as good as that masterpiece. Mama is a nice attempt at the horror genre, but is much too inferior in comparison to Pan.
I'll start with what I like about it first. I liked the lead actors involved. Jessica Chastain, one of the best actresses in Hollywood at the moment, is solid as Annabel, the rock star girlfriend of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's character, who clearly isn't ready to play mum to the two little girls, but tries her best anyway for her boyfriend's sake. Coster-Waldau himself is pretty good as Lucas, though he doesn't get as much screentime as Chastain, which is a pity. Credit also goes out to Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse as Victoria and Lilly respectively. They convincingly portray two children who have lived in the wild for so long that they have become feral in nature (i.e. more animalistic than human), not to mention they can act really creepy when the moment calls for it. Children in horror flicks always deliver the scares well, and these two are among the best I've seen so far.
Director Andres Muschietti also deserves some credit for successfully generating some solid scares. There are a lot of them (some don't really work, I'll get to them in a bit), the ones that work are pretty neat actually. There are a couple of nightmare sequences that really stand out. One of these was done in a blurry, black-and-white manner which is really accurate in depicting how we view our dreams when it comes. I loved that.
Now for the bad. While it's good to have scary moments in a horror film (isn't that what it's supposed to do?), it needs to make sense as well. Most of these moments are done in a jump scare, cheap shock manner which gets tiresome after a while. Instead of building tension, Muschietti throws one shock after another and misses half the time. This kinda stagnates the story flow instead of supporting it, and I felt like it was there just to give us another jolt instead of being relevant to what they're really going for. Then there's the lackluster CGI that makes the Mama entity look rather lame. Then there are the subplots featuring an aunt fighting for custody of the kids and a psychologist investigating the entity's origins which are quite poorly developed and predictable. And why do some of these characters do their fact finding after dark? Sigh.
But thanks to some really good performances, Mama just manages to rise above the level of "run-of-the-mill" horror films. It's a pity it doesn't get any higher than that, despite its unconventional finish. (3/5)