I would say that ‘Mama’ which is presented by executive producer Guillermo Del Toro is not rightly labeled as a horror film, because it is more of a fantasy and supernatural thriller than it is scary. Argentinian director Andrés Muschietti made a short-film in Spanish in 2008 titled ‘Mamá’ along with sister Barbara Muschietti, Del Toro saw something he liked and convinced them to make it into a full-length film. The film approaches what we’ve come to expect from Del Toro such as beauty even in the darkest scenes, an interesting plot and weird supernatural characters. The film is entertaining in it’s own right, but for those that are looking to get spooked you will only be startled and will be taken in a completely different direction.
The lives of Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Annabel (Jessica Chastain) change dramatically when they take on caring for Lucas’ nieces, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse). The girls have had a rough upbringing and they must rise up to the challenge and deal with their trauma both metaphorically and literally.
The film does a fantastic job at the beginning to get the public up to speed with a radio playing in the background, letting us know what’s going on and even while the credits are rolling we are given hints as to what’s happening through drawings.
Some of the obvious elements the film uses to scare the public are two freaky looking girls, which have spooky movements and animal like actions and instincts. The figure of “Mama” might be startling at first, but we get used to seeing her so much that it’s no longer that scary and it kind of becomes ridiculous at points.
There was one or two instances where I actually gasped; it does a number of good scares, although they begin to fall into typical scary movie territory. Artistically the film is beautiful in almost every take, specially those of nature and even the ones that mix the supernatural with reality. The film has various funny unintentional moments, because of some silly scenes.
My favorite thing is seeing such a predominantly Hispanic crew in the production of a big Hollywood movie like this one; the only Hispanic on screen is Mama herself, Javier Botet who recently appeared in ‘Rec3’ as one of the most notoriously freaky monsters of the film. From the adults in the film Chastain certainly carries a lot of the movie, although she only fully comes into character towards the end; the girls really steal a lot of the scenes specially Nélisse she does a very convincing job and is wonderfully creepy.
I will praise this movie for its unpredictability in that it won’t end the way you expect it to. I couldn’t help but remember Del Toro’s ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ because this truly gets close to it with the imagery and storyline. The movie has interesting twists and some original ideas which can set it apart, but because of the wrongful advertising horror fans will be disappointed at some of the turns; so it might be best to watch on DVD. This is not a movie that will keep you from sleeping, but it deserves a watch for it’s admirable production and performances.