Mama (2013/I)

reviewed by
Stephen Bourne

Review: Mama (2013) Spain/Canada, 100 minutes, Rated 14A (ON) 13+ (QC) Reviewed 01/13, (c) Stephen Bourne

Child actors Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse lead this small ensemble cast as violently orphaned Victoria and Lily, lost for five years to the woods of Virginia before these feral children are brought into the unwitting care of their father's twin brother Lucas (played by Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau) and Lucas' smokin' hot girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), as well as under the clinical observation of Dr. Dreyfuss (Montreal- born Daniel Kash) in this surprisingly under baked contemporary Gothic Horror yarn from co-writer/director Andrés Muschietti.

Reportedly based on Muschietti's 3-minute 2008 Spanish short film of the same name and partially shot at Pinewood Studios Toronto, Mama is full of lame plot holes and cheesy contrivances. It's so painfully derivative of other scary movies throughout that it's tough to sit through without beginning to imagine alternative narratives and story choices long before you learn of Mama's tragic life and motives.

Mama is what Victoria and Lily call a ghoulishly protective, bony fingered entity that kept those little girls alive in a secluded cabin, following them back to a cozy suburban house at the peril of Lucas, Annabel and anyone else who either gets too close to Mama's adopted daughters or merely pisses her off. Mama is one bad mama. Not in a good way, though.

Sure, there are a couple of great, chilling scenes here. Sadly, they're short-lived. The line, "Ghosts are emotions bent out of shape," is a great line, but there aren't too many great lines coming from this screenplay. Everything good is quickly overwhelmed by cheap and silly moments that either feel lazily grabbed from The Ring and The Grudge films or seem like clueless attempts at throwing something on-screen that the lighting and music will make scary. At one point, Mama appears as a tangle of hair rolling across the floor like limp tumbleweed towards her next screaming victim. This is scary? Well no, it's ridiculously goofy. Stop screaming, silly Mama victim.

The slow-loading yet impressive official website at features this film's synopsis, a few photos and videos, cross-platform wallpapers, and couple of links to cast and production notes PDFs amongst its cool sliding layered pages. You'll also find external links to Dr. Dreyfuss' paranormal-rich Researching Lost Children blog, and the wonderfully creepy Mama Chillergraphs collection of selected pics and clips from the movie. The website is actually better than the movie.

It's embarrassing that producer Guillermo del Toro's name is attached to this picture. His Pan's Labyrinth was amazing. Mama is little more than a stylish tease of unfulfilled potential, likely saved from direct-to- video purgatory due to del Toro "presenting" it and because of Chastain's current Oscar buzz. Yikes. Reviewed 01/13, (c) Stephen Bourne.

Mama is rated 14A by the Ontario Film Review Board for occasional gory/grotesque images, use of expletives, occasional upsetting or disturbing scenes, embracing and kissing, and restrained portrayals of non-graphic violence, and is rated 13+ by la Regie du Cinema in Quebec.

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