Written by Guillermo Troncoso.
Hell hath no fury like an angry mother, especially when that angry mother is a demonic ghost determined to take back her two “daughters”.
Annabel and Lucas take custody of his nieces, two little girls that were left alone in the forest for five years. After creepy incidents begin occurring in their new house it becomes clear that these girls weren’t completely alone for those years. Mama has come to claim them.
This movie is based on a three-minute short film that director Andrés Muschietti made with his sister. Guillermo Del Toro was so impressed with that short film that he immediately offered to produce the feature version. Muschietti’s confident direction and great eye must have grabbed Del Toro’s attention.
This is a creepy little film that successfully scares while giving in to one too many clichés. Mama‘s plot is intriguing and interesting enough to keep you involved in this couple’s plight. The cast all do an admirable job and Jessica Chastain delivers another great performance as a woman who unwillingly accepts the role of a new mother-figure to the two girls. Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse are downright convincing as the creepy children that may or may not have malevolent intentions.
Andrés Muschietti certainly knows his genre. He handles every sequence with one purpose in mind – to put you on edge. There are intense moments scattered throughout and you’ll find yourself jumping on more than one occasion. Mama herself isn’t shown for quite a while, making her all the more scarier as your imagination fills in her details. Once you do see her, you won’t forget her easily.
Mama has plenty going for it. Antonio Restria’s cinematography, Fernando Velásquez’s score, Gabriel Gutiérrez’s sound design and Elis Lam’s art direction all work well together, making this a stylish horror-thriller.
Unfortunately, the screenplay detracts from the overall experience. It’s understandable that you need to have some clichés to keep your mainstream audience comfortable, but these clichés are obvious and poorly incorporated into the story. You get the creepy old lady who helps you find clues amongst old files, a couple of tacked on characters that are merely there for a body count, no one taking the main character’s worries seriously – your usual list gets ticked off. These familiar, and ultimately dull, points stand apart from the film’s stronger elements.
Mama, for the most part, delivers what is promised. It’s a scary, tense and stylish horror-thriller that manages to get under your skin. We could do without the recycled material though.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10