Mama (2013) | Movie Review
Release date: January 18, 2013
Runtime: 1 hr. 40 min.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Wow! This was actually a pretty good horror film! First of all, I almost want to call it a creepy modern fairy tale. It may be the visuals, the lack of shock value gore (thank God for that) or the fact that the story actually made sense for once, but this is definitely a high quality film and those who enjoy being reasonably spooked should definitely see it. Another reason, of course, are the people involved: Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are not going to let you down, while the overall look bears the unmistakable mark of Guillermo del Toro.
After a family tragedy unfolds, two little sisters disappear in the woods and are left to survive in a cabin. Five years later they are finally discovered and rescued by a search party, thanks to the efforts of their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), but they barely are in a human condition. Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) decide to take custody of the girls and attempt to bring them back to a normal development path. What the couple doesn't know is that the sisters already have a motherly figure from their cabin days and she is not willing to share.
What I loved most about the story was that it had a logical development and eventually explained what was happening and why. As I have mentioned earlier, there isn't any unnecessary gore - the film is more of a supernatural thriller than a regular horror movie. There are, of course, some really good scares in Mama that will make you jump, but the majority of what goes on is suspenseful and disturbing. Another good thing is the fact that we actually get to see character development, especially in Annabel, who slowly discovers her maternal side that is nowhere to be seen in the beginning of the film. The creepy Mama is not randomly evil either - we later discover the reason why she is attached to the girls. There were only a couple of horror cliche "stupid moves" made by the characters and with most of the movie being plausible I didn't sit there thinking "why would you do that" or "no way this would happen" as I do with the majority of films in this genre.
It was great to see Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in a different kind of roles. Both of them showed off their talents, managing to bring an emotional level to the film. I actually cared about what happened to their characters instead of just watching the story unfold. The two little girls were also very impressive, as well as very different in their post-cabin developments. The supernatural visuals, though undeniably creepy, were never gruesome. This was definitely refreshing to me, as so many horror film these days rely on the shock value of things. The recurring appearances of cherries and butterflies may have been the only things I didn't quite understand, but I have accepted them to be a part of the fairy tale universe.
Mama is not your regular mediocre horror flick and I do believe a lot of people can enjoy it (unless you're someone who absolutely doesn't watch this type of films under any circumstances). I was surprised to be impressed by it, just when I lost all hope of seeing a decent horror film. It's a solid 4 out of 5 within the genre for me and definitely more emotionally engaging than some of the recent movies I've seen.