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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Whenever I see a movie that I get really excited about, I seek out
reviews from professional critics and fellow fans. Often times they
will point out things that I may not have noticed and it's exciting to
feel connected to someone through art. When I find lots of negative
reviews I begin to feel a sort of let down. I wonder if my opinion was
"wrong", or why I'm the only one who liked it. Keep in mind; I'm an
18-year-old girl, so I have not yet grown out of such thoughts. I am
also not an authority on film. Everything I know, I learnt from reading
Roger Ebert and watching lots and lots of movies. However, this movie
really stuck with me. I saw it 2 days ago and I still can't stop
thinking about it. I decided to take a page out of Ebert's book and
explain why I loved it (instead of just saying "it's awesome"). Here's
why: 1. The Children: I'm a sucker for kids in movies, especially when
they actually get to act like kids. The 1-year-old Lily and 3-year-old
Victoria are so beautiful that they tug at your heartstrings without
even trying. They were well cast. 6-year old Lily and 8-year-old
Victoria were truly phenomenal little actresses. Megan Charpentier
(already a seasoned veteran with previous credits including Jennifer's
Body, Red Riding Hood, and Resident Evil: Retribution) handles this
heavy subject matter with maturity and poise. She manages to balance
innocence with experience. She has been traumatized by her past, maybe
her heart is a little harder than the average 8-year-old (if it wasn't,
she wouldn't have survived all that time), but we still get glimpses of
the little girl who just wants a mommy. Isabelle Nélisse is (in my
opinion) genius as little Lily. I think CGI must have been used to make
her movements appear more animalistic, but a child of her age
maintaining such seriousness is riveting to watch. When she plays with
her toys, it's like watching an actual feral child in a documentary (I
repeat, it is LIKE watching a feral child, not IDENTICAL to).
2. The "Parents": Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau as the uncle (and uncle's girlfriend) of the little girls are very well cast. I was a bit sceptical of Jessica Chastain's "rocker chick" look, but she brings such life and courage to her character that you actually see her as a bass player, instead of a classically beautiful Hollywood star trying to look like a bass player. I had never heard of Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau before this film. I love how much he loves the girls. His caring for them is so sincere and honest. You truly believe that he is the kind of guy who would spend 5 years (and money he doesn't have) on the hope that his nieces might still be alive. He is a loving father figure who doesn't get as much time with the girls as her should (in my humble opinion).
3. Mama: The demon/spirit/ghost/entity/whatchamacallit of Mama was created using CGI and a very tall, thin actor. Many audience members laughed when Mama first came in to full view. I agree that she looked a little funny. Her hair was really weird and anti-gravity (like Mama in the short film) and her face was oddly asymmetrical. However, I think that she was perfect. Just the right amount of creepy and sad. This is one of the only horror movies in existence that causes the audience to feel real sympathy for the evil villain.
4. The Director: I admire Andrés Muschietti for taking so many risks. It is rare to find a filmmaker today who will go against what the audience may want. He didn't use any fake scares; the situation was scary enough on its own. There are brilliant moments of natural humour that were so refreshing. He did not mock his characters or the situation, but he found the string of comedy that was there already and used it to his advantage. How many times have you been having a miserable day, and then just stopped and started laughing about how everything went wrong? That is the humour of Mama.
5. The Story: Part of the reason that I love horror movies is that they aren't bound by the usual visionary constraints of, say, Italian neo-realism films. Tragic stories are exciting and implausible all at the same time. I think that this was a very original take on a story of mother-daughter bonding. Of course there's no such thing as a "completely original story", but there is such thing as a completely original vision. The story affected me very deeply. I'm still trying to come to terms with how it ended.
6. Using Clichés Effectively: There are a lot of clichés involved in making a horror film. There are only so many ways to introduce the plot line of a supernatural being. This genre requires stock characters, and they do their jobs well. They use some of my favourite scare tactics (using a camera as a light source, unexpected appearances by the entity, etc...). Those particular clichés are necessary. Would you really want to see a Jim Carrey comedy where he uses dry humour and no body language? Or a Baz Luhrman film with dull colours and understated characters? Clichés are not always a bad thing.
This is why I loved this film. Agree or disagree, but you can't say I didn't think it through.
Take care, -Hannah
The title may be tacky, but this Canadian-Spanish co-production, with
Guillermo del Toro lending his name as producer, is one of the better
horror films to have come out from the West in recent years, despite
being filled with the usual clichés, actually contain a proper story,
and delivered really well in terms of chills, thrills and everything
that's necessary to creep you out and make you jump at your seat.
Co-written and directed by Andres Muschietti, Mama shows how it boils
down to story, building upon his short film of the same name some 5
years ago, and a solid cast to gloss over the expected bag of tricks.
Many of the clichés were put to good effect, which in some ways you'd come to expect certain things to happen in a certain way, and they did. While it may be blunted in terms of anticipation and build up, it didn't shy away from delivering that sucker punch when required, and kept good work in framing and editing for maximum impact when the moment called for the unabashed dip into tried and tested elements. One thing you'll note is how assured Muschietti's direction is, as if doing it all for the very first time, with the aim of wanting to stir up its scares really well. Liberal use of CG also helped, but never done in slip-shoddy fashion, which added a layer of positive production values to the film.
I mean, there's creepy children, a ghoul that gate-crashes a reunion of sorts, and the usual spooky house no thanks to noises during strange timings, and the rote blinking of lights. All ingredients that you've seen utilized to the death in various horror film productions, but coming together really well in Mama, playing to the strengths of these elements while fiercely ignoring the negativity associated with lazier filmmakers who just slap these elements together, expecting them to work. It's not a special effects extravaganza when it's not required, and Mama showed just how its story and characters were allowed to lead, rather than to have strangely illogical moments, even for a horror film, fall coincidentally into place.
Jessica Chastain may be the latest IT girl in Hollywood, and it's encouraging to note she's really going all out to take on various roles in different genres, despite her more recent art house leanings of late. Here, she's the quintessential scream queen, albeit only just, given her role of Annabel being a rock star wannabe, sporting almost full body tattoos that betray a rather soft demeanour, when her maternal instincts get called upon to look after the nieces of her boyfriend Lucas (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau). They were found after having disappeared for five years, which the opening sequence and credits would have pointed to an unnatural upbringing under the hands of the titular Mama ghoul. Battling for custody, it is with reluctance that the couple take the children under their wing, probably because Annabel knows she'll eventually be dumped with the kids, which did happen.
And the entire middle act is when the fun begins, for fans of horror films forking out good money to be entertained with the roller coaster ride of scares. Muschietti and his story collaborators Neil Cross and Barbara Muschietti managed to keep an entire back story up their sleeves, to reveal them in teasing fashion, which worked to keep you engaged throughout. And credit must go to Muschietti and his DP Antonio Riestra for having framed the initial introduction to the ghoulish elements that went for maximum WTF surprises, especially with sleight of hand techniques that didn't jar the narrative, nor relied on the necessity of a jump cut edit to hammer home its creepier moments. It grows, slowly, and that's one master stroke Mama had that worked wonders.
This is the second film in a row that had its child actors provide top notch performances. Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse play sisters, who with the aid of CG move around complete with unnatural mannerisms, having it in term to creep you out, before having to develop their characters into emotional cores that added a lot more depth to this film as it steamrolls its way to the finale. Andres Muschietti is the name to watch now for taking something that's expected to be cliché in a horror film, but fulfilled more than you'd bargain for. A definite recommend!
"MAMA", a film executively produced by Del Toro follows the story of
two little girls that are found in the wilderness for five years. They
are then adopted by their Uncle Luke (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau) and his
girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain)and right off the bat, strange
things start happening. While trapped in the woods, Victoria (Megan
Charpentier)and Lily (Isabelle Nelisse) formed a guardian to protect
and care for them, who they call Mama.
This is an excellent movie. Be warned that it does remain dependant on jump scares to scare you, but they are what I like to call "true jump scares". Not a cat bursting out of a corner, or a shoe falling from the sky. "Mama" utilizes CGI by creating dark, disturbing images along with a tense orchestral sound track to scare your pants off. The acting was also superb, particularly Jessica Chastain and Megan Charpentier. Isabelle was solid also, but I had a feeling that before every take, she was told what to do, but Megan was old enough to understand the script and story. Something that really impressed me was how the story unfolded, and how beautifully the mother daughter relationship was portrayed. The cinematography was also one of the most beautiful jobs I've ever seen on a horror film. Camera work was steady and the dolly shots were smooth and suspenseful. Overall, Mama was a terrifying horror movie with a beautiful story and wonderful camera work. I hope this movie is recognized as a classic for years to come. This movie also proves that PG-13 horror movies can be scary after all. 9/10.
I went into this film with high expectations. I am a horror movie
junkie, despite their general lack of critical acclaim. They should be
entertaining, even if they don't give you nightmares. After first
viewing the trailer over the summer (rolling in for The Possession), I
eagerly anticipated the January release. Seeing that Guillermo del
Toro's name was attached to the project made me even more giddy. I saw
it opening night.
I was not disappointed. Not in the slightest. In fact, I was happier with the movie than I intended to be. Believe me, that's saying something.
Not one scared by stories themselves, but solely by moments that utilize the element of surprise, I have never jumped out of my skin more times during a single film than I did for "Mama." That pretty much makes it the scariest movie that I have ever seen. However, seeing as different things scare different people, that is most likely not the same for everyone. If you aren't a jumper, don't worry, it's still very much worth it.
The story is not your typical ghost story. It has a terrific exposition to settle you into the film's focus. The situation is solitary enough that you won't yourself experience it, but isn't so far-fetched that it's unbelievable. The characters are both likable and flawed, which gives them dimension and makes them more interesting. And the girls are adorable, but not so cute that it detracts from the terror. As you can see, the film is very much balanced. A good film needs that balance.
As far as scares go, some are quite subtle. A few you don't particularly realize are happening until something changes, and you're caught off-guard. Seeing that the premise is supernatural, the idea of an elusive antagonist is key. You can't see too much of what you're supposed to be afraid of, and for the majority of the movie, you don't. The cloud of mystery surrounding Mama herself is hauntingly beautiful, and will both demonize and delight you. By the time you finish it, you will most likely feel both happy and sad, and will not know where your emotions should be.
I highly recommend "Mama" to anyone, because it is not your stereotypical horror movie. Its distinct lack of gore, and high level of well-crafted story, makes for an exciting experience for both horror lovers, and those who don't necessarily appreciate the genre. If you get the chance to watch it, take it immediately. If you aren't given the chance to watch it, make the chance yourself.
Horror has been one of the least appreciated film genres nowadays for
relying nothing more than the excessive amount of violence and
repetitive jump scares, plodding the storytelling by its completely
lifeless characters who are ready to get killed. Mama is something else
however it still has those horror movie clichés, like those easy loud
jump scares and some ghostly pathos, but there is a fascinating concept
behind the scares that leaves the audience a beautiful story than just
a cheap horror shock. It also has a set of strong performances and
solid production. It could have been much genuine in being scary than
simply loud but Mama is still one of the great horror films we got in a
Unlike most modern horror films, this movie's ambition is to tell a compelling story. Obviously there is a hidden emotion beneath the concept, but before we get to that, it explores around the characters and the gloomy atmosphere. Rather than throwing a horrific death scene to show fear, it scatters some symbolic objects that indicate the presence of the titular monster. It's a fascinating trick of manifesting its mysteries and fear. What defy the odds of the genre are the characters. They are not only ought to get scared. This is a rare set of modern horror characters that possesses a genuine soul. The performances handle them terrifically. There is a lot of remarkable performance to talk about but anyway. It's not only about the scares. It finely balances the drama to the darkness of the story. Personally, it's kind of more interesting when it simply tells the story of the two kids and the Mama ghost even though it features a horror cliché of ghosts telling their past to the central character. In the end, we'll realize the film actually offers more to the picture.
The only largest misstep they had is the excessive amount of loud jump scares. Though, they can be effective at some point. They still used some other ways of scaring the audience, like mimicking the clever horror trick of "The Orphanage" and letting the character be alone exploring the creepiness going on. It could have lingered on those parts to feel the danger of the characters, but instead they immediately send off a loud jump scare because it works to everyone. The film uses some CGI which made the monsters look a bit awkward but they are decent enough. Everything looks great in general. The cinematography and the production are a total pay off. It's just beautiful to look at.
Mama turns out to be pretty good. At glance, it doesn't look like the kind of horror film we usually thought about but furthermore we get to realize it is beyond than we should expect. The clichés still exists but they are used in a better way. Putting aside those cheap scares, it's a refreshing story that is indeed worth telling. It's still far from classic but it is also far from generic and annoying like most horror films we get these days. The performances and the filmmaking give more to the experience. Mama is the kind of horror film that abandons the gruesome acts and rather shows its dark aspects in a quite endearing way.
¨A ghost is an emotion bent out of shape, condemned to repeat itself
time and time again.¨
Another South American director has made his splash on Hollywood after the successful debut of Mama in theaters this year. Argentinean director, Andres Muschietti, made over 70 million dollars in the box office and received decent reviews for this horror/suspense film based on a short 3 minute movie he directed in 2008. That short film garnered the attention of movie executives such as Guillermo Del Toro who decided to produce and present this film. The fact that Del Toro's name was used here and that the coveted Jessica Chastain signed on to play the main character gave Muschietti the tremendous possibility of debuting on a high note. The formula worked pretty well because critics and audiences seemed to enjoy this film alike, and we could be heading to the start of a new horror franchise. I enjoyed most of the movie, and loved Jessica Chastain's performance, but the ending just ruined the entire film for me. It is kind of the same problem pretty much every ghost story film has. I feel like most of the endings in this genre are pretty unsatisfying and ruin the entire suspense the film has been building throughout the story. There is no denying that Japanese films have heavily influenced the genre with films such as The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, and One Missed Call which have all been remade, but the truth of the matter is the only film that really worked with critics was The Ring. They have tried to imitate its success, but I haven't been scared like I was with The Ring, which had a pretty satisfying ending compared to the rest. I do prefer this type of psychological horror more than the gory slasher films, but I find it troubling that they can't find a satisfying ending. My favorites in this genre will always be the first two I saw: Zemeckis's What Lies Beneath and The Ring. The rest have all fallen short. Mama was close to achieving that similar success in my opinion, but the ending really hurt it.
The film centers around two girls named Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) and Victoria (Megan Charpentier) who are abandoned in a cabin in the middle of the woods after their father murdered their mother and was attacked by some presence inside the cabin. Five years later the search finally pays off and their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau) finds them. To everyone's surprise the two girls have managed to survive on their own, but they live like animals crawling around the floor and talking to walls. Lucas and his girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain) decide to raise the kids with the help of Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) who continues to treat the girls in order for them to make the transition from their isolated lives to a normal and nurturing family life. Annabel soon discovers that these girls might have never been on their own and that somehow the presence that was with them in the cabin might be in their home as well. Several suspenseful and horrifying events begin to take place while the girls continue to talk to shadows in the walls and call out for Mama.
The film has several thrills and suspenseful moments with a great performance from Jessica Chastain. It was good to see her try out a different role and she proves she can do about everything. It's hard to find good performances in horror films, but this may be one of the best. The movie also has its weaknesses like pretty much all horror films do considering the protagonists always seem to make stupid decisions, but that is what makes the genre so entertaining at times. They are clichés which we have learned to accept. The two girls were also surprisingly good, they had strong performances as well. I really enjoyed everything about the movie up to the last 15 minutes which pretty much ruined everything. Psychological thrillers usually have this impact: they begin with a lot of promise but end up on the wrong note, and that is exactly how I felt about Mama along with Sinister, a similar movie I got to see a few months ago. The film is above average thanks to Jessica Chastain, and Guillermo Del Toro's influence in the production of the movie, but that is about it.
I really liked this movie and the concept for it was original. I think
this film makes the viewer think about what the characteristics are of
being a mother. What sort of instincts we as woman can display and what
kind of connections can be made with a child, even if you're a
Del Toro will always put his name on a good thriller surrounding small children. This movie had all the thrills of a scary movie and the elements fright used in the film had everyone in my theater on the edge of the seat. The movie waist no time getting into the meat of the story.
There are flaws in the film and it does have to do with plot holes. The director could have worked these holes out with other writers......like Del Toro perhaps. The back story had the hugest gap of all.
Regardless, it was better than 'Don't be Afraid of the Dark', and I will be seeing this film again.
I am a big fan of horror but recently i cant remember a movie which i
enjoyed to my heart but then i saw MAMA and it was like a fresh air
which u asked from a long long time. What makes MAMA special and
different is it's Story and Acting.Not many horror movies has it now a
days but MAMA has it all..a beautiful and emotional film with great
horror elements to back it.The performance from Jessica Chastain is
mind blowing.when the movie starts I didn't seem to connect with her
character but as soon as the movie progressed she just blown my mind
with her screen presence and screen fit performance.few places r just
brilliant like the one where she finds lily outside of the house and
she brings her in but Lily tries to escape but the she holds he tight
and make her feel that she loves her from within and Lily starts
looking at her with innocence and Jessica hold her hands blow air on
them and ask Lily that "dose she liked it"..it moved me and i was just
speechless watching it.Just little more detailing would have turned it
into a classic for life.but never then less its one of the finest
horror film I watched in decades.
Highly recommended.Loved it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Mama" is the first big horror film release of the year, so as a horror
movie fan, I really wanted to watch this. It has the name of Guillermo
del Toro, not as director as I first thought, but as a producer, so we
expected fantastic visuals. I was pleasantly surprised to see Jessica
Chastain there too, looking like I have not seen her before, sporting a
short dark Joan Jett-hairstyle. This film really had a lot going for
"Mama" is a malevolent female spirit who jealously hounds the couple Annabelle (Jessica Chastain) and Luke (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau) who adopts a couple of young girls who had been found living wildly in an abandoned cabin in the woods. Throughout this movie, in the way of disturbing dreams and jarring apparitions, we join Annabelle try to discover what exactly "Mama" wants that she cannot seem to get.
First-time feature film director Andrés Muschietti succeeds to create a horror film that was visually stunning as it was emotionally charged. The stylish look may have been influenced by the producer, Guillermo del Toro. The emotional ride was largely due to the restrained yet effective performance of Jessica Chastain as a single rocker-chick who was suddenly given the unexpected and unwelcome responsibility of being a step-mother to two very disturbed girls.
The one drawback for me was "Mama" herself, particularly how she looked. I admit I did not really like how she reminded me so much of Sadako (of the "Ring" films) in all its obvious computer-generated glory. However, the camera angles used to show "Mama" and her point of view were quite innovative. There were gaping plot holes when you think the story through and try to give explanations to "Mama"'s illogical behavior. But hey, she is a crazy ghost after all! Just sit back, imbibe the creepy atmosphere and feel the emotion in the story.
When sisters Lily and Victoria are left in the woods after a series of
horrific events leaves them orphaned, how would they survive for the
next five years until they are eventually rescued? Have no fear, Mama
is here. The debut feature from Spanish director Andres Muschietti has
some plot hole, but still delivers the goods in a scary, almost
In Mama, there are similarities to the American version of The Ring in the way some of the scenes are shot in that grainy, static, antiquated, black and white style. Horror/ghost film fans might think parts of the film are clichéd and they would be correct. However, the two sisters in the film (played by Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse) make for interesting viewing. As Victoria and Lilly, the two are feral creatures having lived in the wild the bulk of their lives. Even after being taken in by their uncle (Game Of Thrones' Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau, Lilly still prefers to run around on all fours, eat with her hands while on the floor, and sleep under her bed. Her speech is relegated to growls and grunts with a few words mixed in. Her big sister, Victoria has a faster time assimilating to the civilized world. She even begins to cozy up to her uncle's punk rock girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain).
What makes Mama work is the relationship between the female characters. Chastain ( Take Shelter, Zero Dark Thirty) has the lead role. She's the girlfriend, but becomes the unwilling stepmom to the two girls. The girls accept her to different degrees, but still cling to each other first and foremost. They also cling to "Mama" and vice versa. Thus what you have is a battle of wills between the supernatural and the living world with the emotional and physical well being of two little girls hanging in the balance. Maybe the presence of Barbara Muschietti (sister of the director) as one of the producers and writers of the film had some influence on having women as the driving force.
In addition, Mama might feel and look like the style of Guillermo del Toro film. That could be because he executive produced the film. If you are familiar with his work, you can see his hand in guiding this maiden voyage. Even so, Mama stands on it's own merits. It's far from perfect. The acting, especially from the kids, some trippy and macabre imagery , and a bit of a twist might make you want to sleep with the lights on.
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