Mama is somewhat refreshing horror film and certainly my favorite since Sinister last October. I think I initially saw the trailer for this movie at Sinister so that's a bit of a nice tie in I guess. Also having just watched Jessica Chastain do her thing in Zero Dark Thirty I was really excited to see her in a completely different type of role. Guillermo Del Toro produced this and has a newcomer director/writer in Andres Muschietti, also a writer, in Neil Cross, whose name is tied in with the likes of Dr. Who on television and Pacific Rim on the big screen. Mama is a highly original modern horror film that kinda stands out from the rest.
Mama follows the story of two young girls named Victoria and Lilly (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse). After the impending news of the 2008 financial crisis Jeffery (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the girls father, kills his business associates and his wife, and takes the girls. Driving entirely too fast on an isolated and icy road, he spins out and crashes in the woods. Both he and the girls survive and walk to an abandoned house. As Jeffery is about to kill himself a figure takes the gun away from him and kills him as it drags him away. The girls are then shown being fed some food next to a fire. Five years later a couple of hunters stumble upon the wreck and subsequently find the house with the girls still living there. Albeit they're are now in a completely animal-like state. They are rescued and committed to a clinic run by Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss (Daniel Cash). He is intrigued by the girls' behavior, drawings and who they keep referring to as "Mama." At a custody hearing he gives the rights to Jeffery's brother Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), over their great-Aunt Jean (Jane Moffat), on the condition that he gets to put them in a clinic sponsored house have have access to them. It quickly becomes apparent that strange things are happening with the girls. Lucas is thrown to the first floor of the house and has to be hospitalized when the figure attacks him after Annabel sees it in a mirror. Leaving a still very uncomfortable Annabel at home to continue caring for the children, she gets to know them well. But she soon finds out that there may be someone (or something) else that is already the mother of these two girls.
There was a lot of good and a lot of bad in this. I know, good and bad in an alright movie. Who would've thought it? We'll start with the good, it immediately begins for me with the beginning of the movie (another shocker right?) and the cinematography. From the snowy white mountain road, to the old abandoned house and then the house they're put in. It all looks good as well as giving off the creepy atmosphere that it does. The characters, especially, the two girls Victoria and Lilly, as well as their chemistry with Annabel really helps hold this together. Lucas is good as the boyfriend and Dr. Dreyfuss adds another creepy character along with Jean. There's a fair amount of development, especially with the children and Dr. Dreyfuss. Jessica Chastain did well with the script and story she was given. The little girls, Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse, combined with "Mama", were pretty creepy throughout as well. Daniel Cash as well as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (PLAYING DUAL CHARACTERS) were pretty engaging too. The story was highly original, for the most part, and kept me guessing until the big reveal. The dialogue and music throughout was decent as well.
One of the big problems with this for me is the length. This is pretty long for a horror movie and there's a lot of dragging and unnecessary scenes. Nothing more that I hate than a long movie or one that has me checking the time. I mean the aunt plotting to get the kids and making shady phones calls around? It added nothing in my eyes. Also the back story for Mama was pretty standard. Not even just for horror, but movies in general. I will say that the way the present her in the movie is pretty cool, though I still don't quite get what she was doing when she put her hands on people and *SPOILER* sucks their life out of them? *SPOILER* The scares were pretty much all jump scares too, that's another downer in my eyes. I mean I could see where they tried use use psychological stuff or tried to get into your head, but it never went anywhere. Then it just all ended up being "BOO! Gotcha" stuff. Even then they didn't work too well. Finally the ending, had they ended it even just three minutes before what they ended up doing I would've immensely liked the close of this. But then again, they kept it going for more a feel good thing. Bah.
All in all this is a pretty solid attempt and a decent horror movie to start of 2013. Last year we started off with The Devil Inside and The Woman in Black. So this is already a huge improvement. Jessica Chastain gives another good performance and the little girls duo is pretty creepy. If you go in thinking this is more of a "thriller with a ghost in it", like a serious Scooby-Doo episode, I think you'll have a nice watch. But if you do get scared easily this will get you a few times. A decent start to 2013 and hopefully horror will only get better this year.