Sunday, January 27, 2013

Movie Review: MAMA

What makes a good ghost story? Executive Producer Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone (2001), Pan's Labyrinth (2006)) did just that when he got rookie Spanish director Andrés Muschietti to make a full-length feature film of his 2008 short-horror film Mamá. Mama (2013) is a Spanish-Canadian horror film which proves just how strong a mother's love for her child can be, even from beyond the grave! After being abandoned in a cabin in the woods by their father, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) are found 5 years later and sent to live with their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain). After years of isolation and malnourishment the girls have begun to learn how to live with their new family with the help of Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) although Annabel, a rebellious rock band bass player, is reluctant to become a mother. The most bizarre mystery is how the children have survived all this time all alone in the wilderness when it is revealed that they befriended a mysterious, supposedly imaginary friend known only as "Mama". As Victoria has begun to happily accept her new life, Lilly, the youngest and more feral, (with only a three word vocabulary)who still clings to the security of "Mama" until finally she appears, and wants the children to herself!
Mama is a creepy and atmospheric horror story with strong emotional content and some very genuinely, frightening moments. Within the genre of the horror film, children have always been a strong draw with films like The Omen (1976) or recently in Insidious (2010). Producer Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to the subject of children in horror as with his earlier Spanish-language horror film The Devil's Backbone (2001). The character of "Mama" played by Javier Botet and voiced by Jane Moffat is truly disturbing. With most ghost stories there is always a way that the main characters can either appease the ghost or destroy the remains of the ghost, thus ending the horror (or have I been watching too many episodes of Supernatural?). This is not the case however, as the ending of Mama comes with a bit of a surprise and although bewildering, albeit somewhat disappointing. While the other characters in the film wonder whether "Mama" is real or not, both the audience and the children of course know the truth and that enhances the fear of the unknown in the film. You generally feel for the children and truly want them to go on leading happy normal lives after being left out in the woods only to be raised by a jealous and murderously, over-protective ghost-mom. After seeing the 2008 short-film by the director you get a sense of literally what the whole film eventually culminates to in the climax of the full-length movie without any character-development or backstory yet it doesn't make it any less frightening when you finally see Mama and chills run up your spine and goosebumps form on your skin. The film Mama is a good ghost story and has a few frightening scenes but I feel that the rookie director could have gone a different way with the ending. Either way it was an interesting film with a few good scares that will make me think twice before opening my closet.