Mama is a feature version of a short which you will be able to see at the bottom of this review. Generally speaking, most things with Guillermo Del Toro's name on it is a pretty safe bet. Is that the case here? More after the jump.
Whats the Plot?
For some reason that is never explained, two little girls dad goes completely insane, murders a few people, abducts is daughters and takes them out to a place he hasn't decided yet. On his way because he is busy getting mad at his daughter, he crashes his car and takes them to an abandoned cabin. As is standard, they are not alone. The girls are recovered years later but their protector "Mama" may not have left them.
How is it?
Happy to say it's not bad. I feel like this movie was making an honest attempt to be a little bit different. The movie wasn't able to pull it off completely, but it tried hard and it's gonna get some points for that.
What did I like about it?
One success of this movie is something I have made reference to before. They don't show what you are supposed to be afraid of, at least not fully. One clever technique was having one of the girls not wearing her glasses and us looking through her eyes at Mama. Doing this allows our imaginations to run a little bit more wild, at least in the short term.
This movie is also shot very well, it pulls off somewhat of a claustrophobic feeling because a lot of the shots are done in close quarters. Quick edits and using darkness to move characters rapidly definitely did not hurt this movie at all and it does not come off as contrived.
I also have to give credit to the two young actors who play the girls who Mama is looking after. According to Megan Charpentier's IMDB page, she has acting for a little while now, and I can see her having a bright future. Both girls convey scared really well but they were able to display a wide range of emotions and help the viewer buy into the scenes that they are in.
Is it scary?
Reasonably so. This movie got some decent reactions in the theater that I was in. Some of the scenes I found were very intense, and the way the scenes are set-up help this. For the part of the movie where you don't see Mama, it goes a long way. Unfortunately once the big reveal is done, it starts to lose some of it's intensity. Had the titular character not looked so computer generated, I think it would have allowed some of the scariness be maintained, but alas this is the world we live in now.
That's one mad Mama.
What didn't I like?
First and foremost, I REALLY did not like Jessica Chastain. I actually thought she was going to be a static character in this movie, which would have been extremely aggravating, she does eventually go through a change, but it's really late in the movie and isn't very effective. I'm not sure who's to blame for this though.
Some of the plot points aren't explained either, some questions I was left with (spoilers)
-Why did the dad kill go insane?
-Why wasn't Mama satisfied with getting her child back?
-Why did Lily want to go with Mama?
-Why did they seem like they understood why Lily went?
Lastly, I didn't like that near the end the movie became strangely similar to The Woman in Black. Luckily for this film, that concept has not been done to death and the movie doesn't completely suffer for this, but it is noticeable.
For the imagery and the fairly decent acting, this is a movie that is somewhat easy to recommend. It's not terrifying by any means, but it has some decent scares. Rather than rely only on jump scares - the movie does well to set up a good atmosphere and build up some tense scenes.
The movie even managed to fit in a cabin in the woods! How.. Quaint.
This movie gets 3 moths out of 5
Below is the original short (Highly Recommended!)
And the Trailer: