MAMA review by Dan

I am a fan of Guillermo del Toro, so when he puts his name on something, I’m hoping for a good flick. With Mr. del Toro’s executive producer cred, I wanted to like to this film… “wanted to.”

                The film Mama, directed by Andres Muschietti, is sort of a twisted fairytale/ghost story. We are started off with our two lead girls being taken by their dad. There is the sound of a radio report filling in the blanks for us. After a car crash lands them in the woods, the dad leads them into a creepy cabin they happened to stumble across. This is Mama’s house. The girls are found there five years later by a couple of guys working with their dad’s brother who has not stopped looking for them. But… there is something not right with the girls (dun dun duuunn). They also keep referencing someone they call “Mama” (duuunn). And, so the story unravels…

                Guillermo del Toro has a fascination with fairytales and folklore that I can appreciate. I feel as though he reads Grimm’s Fairytales and questions how to make them darker and more twisted. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, a film he co-wrote and produced, was an interesting take on the tooth fairy. His masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth, should have beaten Letters From Iwo Jima for best foreign film in 2006. And, the concept for this ghost tale had potential. I could see the attraction to making this film; however, the finished product fell short.

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                The adult, female lead was played by Jessica Chastain, who consistently seems to put out a solid performance. Her role here was played well by her, as she is good about becoming the person she is playing (instead of just being Jessica Chastain in different scenarios like some actors do). Unfortunately, her character was not very dynamic. The best performance was given by Isabelle Nelisse, who played Lilly – the younger of the two girls. At only around six years old, this was a shining performance from a child star – sometimes even out-spooking the ghost. I did also enjoy the films title sequence which told the story of the girls’ five year upbringing in the woods through pictures drawn by the girls themselves. However, I can’t really think of anything else I truly thought that much of in this picture.

                Basically it can be summed up like this: the film built up enough suspense and threw in enough quick scares to make the theatre all jump (startled, scared, awoken… whatever) in unison, yet they were taken in ridicule with an outpour of laughter immediately following. In other words, the film managed to sneak in a few “oohs” and “ahhs” but they were instantly met with the humorous notion that it was this silly film that invoked them.

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