In Theatres: 
Jan 18, 2013
Running Time: 
1 Hour, 40 Minutes

With all the award season buzz surrounding Jessica Chastain and Zero Dark Thirty, it’s no surprise that supernatural horror film Mama was pushed back from its initial October release date. She stars as Annabel, a rock star guitarist who’s thrust into motherhood when her boyfriend gets custody of his two nieces, Victoria and Lilly, who went missing years ago. Turns out the children aren’t the only new additions to the family, though.

Spending years alone in an abandoned cabin no doubt affected the social development of both Victoria and Lilly. The girls regressed into a more feral state of mind; their movements and speech more animalistic than human. All in all, the beginning of the film when they are like this is actually scarier than when “mama” shows up. Watching the girls’ sporadic movements and howls is more disturbing than the unnatural twitches and special effects of the apparition.

It was Mama who cared for the girls all those years they were in the woods alone, and she stays with them as they move in with Annabel and her boyfriend Lucas. At first, everyone believes mama to be just someone the girls made up to cope with their situation but as dark things happen around them, they soon start to believe there is something more evil afoot.

Mama marks the debut of director Andres Muschietti, who created the original short the film is based on. For a first attempt, it’s not so bad. There are definitely some suspenseful and terrifying moments in the film, especially towards the beginning. The pacing is dreadfully slow, though, and the overuse of CGI ruins some of the intended horror.

Mama is a tortured soul who twists and contorts like she’s out of a Japanese horror film. At first you only get glimpses of her as she is obscured by shadows or is barely off screen. This is the scariest she ever is as her complete look is still unknown. Towards the end of the film, everything falls apart as Mama becomes borderline ridiculous instead of frightening. Then again, the script doesn’t help much in that department either.

While the film starts out as a horrifying children’s tale, Mama soon evolves into a comical joke. It’s a shame, really, because I tend to love most films that have anything to do with Guillermo del Toro, who serves as executive producer. Its source material is brilliant. The people involved are brilliant. It’s disappointing that the final result is so lackluster. 

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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