Mama * * *

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Director: Andy Muschietti.
Screenplay: Andy Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti, Neil Cross.
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, Jane Moffat, Morgan McGarry, David Fox, Hannah Cheeseman.

After producing the disappointing “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” in 2011, Guillermo del Toro lends his name – and financial services – to another American horror production, which is actually an elaboration of the 2008, three minute short, “Mamá” by the same Argentine director Andrés Muschietti. For the most part, del Toro has wisely chosen a director to invest in, but like so many before him, he fails to deliver the ultimate punch that’s so important in this particular genre.

A father (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), seemingly in a state of desperation abducts his two young daughters and flees with them to a remote cabin in the woods. His intention is to kill them but before he does, a dark entity interjects and kills him instead. For years afterwards, the father’s twin brother (Coster-Waldau again) searches for his nieces and eventually finds them. They have went feral and claim to have been looked after by something they refer to as “Mama”. However, when they head back to civilisation, “Mama” has no intentions of leaving them alone.

Let me just start by saying that “Mama” is a very frustrating movie. When I say frustrating, I don’t mean bad, as this film can’t quite be labeled as such. It has many things to recommend it; the deliberate pace; the teasing build up; freaky children; the spectre only hinted at or briefly glimpsed. Director Andrés Muschietti (or Andy as he’s credited) certainly knows how to build tension and raise the goosebumps. He does it so commandingly and assembles two impressive lead actors that are at the forefront of everyone’s minds at present; the ubiquitous, two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastian and rising “Games Of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – not to mention two excellent child actors in Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse, but (forgive me if I’m mistaken here) is the role of executive producer not to produce, or oversee, the financial side of a film, allowing a director to fully express their vision and help with the distribution of the product? If that’s the case, then Guillermo del Toro can certainly be seen to have done his side of the bargain on the latter half, as this has reached quite an impressive audience, but on the the former he has to come under scrutiny. When this film is forced into delivering the visuals, they seem cheap and really not up to the standard that a more sophisticated audience are accustomed to. The finale is delivered in such a way that it strips the whole film of the good work that went before – Namely, revealing the ghost too much and too soon. When will filmmakers – particularly those in the horror genre – learn, that less is more? It’s not necessary for us to witness the antagonist in full view and allow our minds to be force fed, when it worked so much better when we were kept in the dark. In fairness, it’s a poorly written denouement that still falls at the feet of director Muschietti, who co-writes with Neil Cross and sister Barbara Muschietti. They construct a brilliant horror concept with an effective, mother/daughter emotional core, but are simply unable to bring it to any satisfying conclusion. That’s exactly where the frustration lies; this film had so much going for it, that it leaves you in disbelief that it’s all squandered in contrivances and poor CGI, which ultimately leaves you with the overriding feeling that not all short film’s have the ability or mileage for a feature length endeavour.

For the most part, this is a very effective and engaging modern horror but like so many from recent times, it fails to deliver when it really matters. Here’s some advice from your “Dada“… expect less and you’ll receive more.

Mark Walker

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33 Responses to “Mama * * *”

  1. I watched the movie a few weeks back and i quite liked it. Except for the end. The entire movie was really thrilling but the ending disappointed me.

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    • GaryLee828 Says:

      The ending ruined the entire experience for me. If it had a strong ending I would have liked it, but the lame and cliche ending destroyed everything else.

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    • Hey there! Yeah, it was decent enough and set it’s stall up very well indeed. At one point I thought it was one of the better recent horrors I had seen and then it squandered it all by the end.

      Thanks for dropping, and glad to hear we’re on the same page. 🙂

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  2. GaryLee828 Says:

    “The Ring” nailed it when they failed to show Samara up until the very end; what a payoff! A fraction of the theater were on their feet as if they were at a sporting event when Samara climbed out of the well. This was an example when America nailed it; “Mama” is a more typical example of how American horror falls short and wastes a lot of potential.

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    • I really liked “The Ring” as well Gary. Great stuff. Unfortunately, American horror does tend to fall short and this was one of them. I was really enjoying it to begin with but it’s slowly gets more ridiculous as time goes on.

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  3. Looks scary, gonna let my brother handle reviewing this one 😉

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  4. Nice review! I need to check this out; I have heard it’s executed well but the payoff is a tad lame. It seems like you back up that view!

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    • To condense the whole review, that exactly what I’d boil it down to. Excellently delivered for the most part but eventually falls apart. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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  5. Never really fancied this one in all honesty, seemed a little ‘been there, done that’. And also because I’m a massive wimp and the trailer made me jump 🙂 Nice write up bud.

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    • Cheers Chris. It does have it’s little creepy, edgy moments and if you’re on the wimpish side then it might manage to raise a few hairs. Its a half decent film. No classic but effective enough.

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  6. “Here’s some advice from your “Dada“… expect less and you’ll receive more.”

    LOL!!!

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  7. Yup, I’m with you Mark. The ending was poorly written as you mention, they had a good movie building up for awhile there, but then the finale just chucks it all out the window. 😦

    “They construct a brilliant horror concept with an effective, mother/daughter emotional core, but are simply unable to bring it to any satisfying conclusion.” is really where its at. 😉

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    • The ending was insulting Fogs. It totally ruined its chances of becoming a great movie. There was some very good stuff beforehand and the film was ticking over very nicely indeed up till that point. Decent movie but it didn’t realise it’s potential unfortunately. Thanks, man.

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  8. Mark reviewing Horror!!! Keep out of my area ye bastard!! LOL – great write up dude. Not seen this yet, looks and sounds pretty creepy though 🙂

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    • LOL! I do review horror on occasion my man, but it’s not my forte, as it is yours. 😉 I haven’t seen a truly great horror since “The Orphanage”, many moons ago. I liked this, but it could have been much better.

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  9. I really disliked this movie, may be the worst I’ve seen this year. I completely agree about CGI, it was ridiculous! The only thing I liked was Waldau’s performance – he is much too good for this film. I hope Del Toro didn’t loose his touch completely and Pacific Rim won’t be a disappointment.

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    • I thought it was alright Sati, but totally agree on the ending. I think most people share that view. It ruined all it’s good work with the silly unravelling and unnecessary exposure of the ghost.

      Here’s hoping that del Toro has lost his touch, but in fairness, when he directs a film himself, he tends to be very reliable.

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  10. I like Jessica Chastain & Nikolaj Coster-Waldau but you already know this isn’t my genre, Mark. I just stepped out of my comfort zone for Cabin in the Woods, but it’ll be a while before I watch another horror movie, ahah.

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    • I like Chastain and Waldau as well, Ruth but I found the former a little miscast here. Normally I think she’s perfect in a role but not as much here. It’s a decent little film but your not missing much if you choose to avoid it for the time being.

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  11. Nice review Mark…the ending was sooooooo Disney. Hated it!

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  12. I think your score is spot-on. It’s a very decent little movie but it doesn’t take that extra step. It’s flaws brings it down and can sometimes overshadow the things it does really well. Good stuff Mark.

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  13. Nice review. I haven’t seen the movie yet. I like horror, but so much of it is crap and disappointing. What the hell is going on in that final picture in your review? It looks well weird.

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    • Cheers Monkey? For the most part, this is a decent flick but it doesn’t quite deliver when it really needs to. It’s worth a look but ends rather unfortunately. That picture is quite freaky isn’t it? If you look closer, you’ll see its actually two kids. One underneath the other.

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  14. Victor De Leon Says:

    I enjoyed this movie for what is was. Nothing too new or effective and the loud “scare umps” annoyed me but I actually did not mind the ending. Good review, Mark. Keep em coming!

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