Younkie the Movie-Junkie Review: Mama


Movie Review: Mama -

There’s no question that Guillermo del Torro has made some visually thrilling nightmares but he’s really just playing “Mama” to feature filmmaking newbies here, allowing the Muschietti’s (Andres and Barbara) to expand on their 2008 short film. And like kids are often to do, they disappoint.

Jessica Chastain (taking a break from being the next Meryll Streep) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ("Game of Thrones") play punk-rocker Annabel and artist Lucas, the aunt and uncle of two girls (Megan Charpentier, Isabell Nelisse) lost in the woods for five years after the financial crisis made there father go nuts. The girls tell the story of mama, a ghost who took care of them and told them she was a mental patient who escaped with her child and then committed suicide (aren’t they all?). The doctor (Daniel Kash) of the institute the girls are brought to of course thinks they've made her up. Annabel, Lucas, and the girls are moved into a home that the doctor uses for case studies (whatever that means) and Mama plans on being there too.

Mama is an admittedly frightening special effect but her use is boring, waiting around in closets and walls to give us one quick jolt (accompanied by loud sound effect doing half the work) before disappearing again. There are possibilities in a spooky mom wanting to hold on to her kids but the film is way too interested in cheapo scares. It’s also goofy (the girls will sometimes walk up-right, sometimes scurry around on all-fours like spiders and eat moths), tame (don’t expect to actually see much horror as the PG-13 rating makes sure that deaths happen in the dark), and disinterested in its own characters (the girls have been traumatized but Lucas and Annabel don’t even try to help them with transition).

It’s to “Mama’s” credit then that the ending finally manages to create some really disturbing human drama, as Mama and the girls grapple with over-protectiveness and loss. Unfortunately by then, you also just want “Mama” to end.