Director: Andres Muschietti Writer: Andres Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti, Neil Cross Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier Running time: 100 minutes Year: 2013
Seeing Guillermo Del Toro’s name attached to a film guarantees the audience a certain type of content wrapped up in his signature style. As his slate becomes ever more full, the Spanish director has taken to instead producing his horror content. With a keen eye seeking upcoming horror talent, one filmmaker he took a chance on was one Andres Muschietti who made the creepy 3 minute short, Mama. He was then hired to direct the full length feature under the tutelage of Del Toro.
With a trailer bursting full of the film’s more obvious moments, when it comes to watching Mama unfold before you in its full length glory….it’s a pleasant surprise. Beginning in a cabin in the woods, by way of an insane asylum, you’re probably already on the verge of abandoning this review. But don’t! See, this is where Mama surprises. On paper it’s another horror cutout, but on the screen it’s a creepy treasure.
What sets Mama apart from its contemporaries is a typical premise executed with a difference. As two children are left to fend for themselves in the woods, they come across an old shack and take residence within. Years later, under contract by their Uncle, a team of seasoned investigators find them. Feral and without the correct eyewear, the two girls move in with Uncle Lucas (Game Of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain.)
“What sets Mama apart from its contemporaries is a typical premise executed with a difference….its success lies in the choice to deviate the story from a path horror often wanders down.”
The film’s success lies in the choice to deviate the story from a path horror often wanders down. With an algae black hue prevailing over each scene, there’s no escape from what lurks within each nook and cranny. This is where its fear is generated, in the darkness where we wait for something to terrify us. Of course, if there were a dullard leading the story then you’d hope he’d get swallowed up by it rather than bore you to tears with obvious genre trappings.
Fear not because thanks to the dynamism of Chastain we’re kept engaged. As Lucas’ rocker girlfriend, she swiftly takes over the investigation after he is hospitalised. She elevates the lull which drags the middle act down, and captivates regardless of what she’s doing. Entire sequences wherein she studies old audio recordings are mesmerising due to her watchability. First impressions sketch her as a selfish goth void of emotion, which are soon forgotten as her tough facade slips away to eventually reveal a caring mother figure.
Speaking of mother figures, what about ole Mama herself? A dastardly invention, there are moments when you wonder how scared you’d be if a toothless CGI hag like that was hidden in your cupboard. The question of how exactly she is manifested never gets addressed and therein lies the only gaping plot hole. Other than that, forget about the ins and outs and enjoy a lovingly-crafted little thriller that’ll have you checking under the bed tonight.
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