114 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2013
Good acting, a monster that I don't see too little, good effects (even if it is all just CGI) and a story I can swallow...we have a winner! This movie is nothing epic nor did it have the best scares I've seen in a while, but it's a horror movie that "works."
First time feature director Andrés Muschietti (writer/director of the short film Mamá) does a solid job with atmosphere and "creepy." The story gets moving when two orphaned girls are discovered in an abandoned cabin in the woods after five years somehow surviving on their own (now they're about 9 and 7 years old-ish). Their eyes are cold and scared yet somehow predatory, their hair and skin far beyond wildly filthy, and their movement is so unnatural that it reminds me more of a Silent Hill monster than an animal. More disturbing was the degeneration of their oral skills with the exception of whispering "mama."
Much to my surprise, the maternal poltergeist Mama was not a kept mystery. Mama, her appearance, what she's capable of and her relationship with the girls are all presented to us right away. So when the feral Victoria (Megan Charpentier; Resident Evil: Retribution, Red Riding Hood, Jennifer's Body) and Lilly are taken in by uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), the movie doesn't rely on us wondering when Mama will pop up and reign terror on the new foster parents. Instead we watch the girls maintain a secret relationship with Mama while remaining emotionally distant from Lucas and Annabel.
But once their child psychologist and the new parents catch on to Mama's presence, simply a psychological manifestation or even a home invader by their perception, Mama feels threatened. And once the girls begin to open up to the doctor or feel affection for their new parents, Mama gets pissed! So we find ourselves not only nervous when we're "normally" nervous in these movies (e.g., walking in dark halls, opening the ajar closet door, looking over your shoulder to see what the girls are looking at), but we're also nervous when things wouldn't normally be unnerving...like when we see Annabel desperately hugging a thrashing Lilly, who starts to find the embrace comforting...I wonder if Mama is watching.
What's interesting is how this movie has such a simple story with one simple revelation toward its end, no red herrings and no real surprises--yet, it really works. I thought they had some trouble making the finale at the end come together, actually I thought it was too drawn out and a bit weak, but overall I was VERY pleased with this movie.
We start out feeling edgy about the girls, and as they normalize we start feeling edgy about Mama (Javier Botet; creature actor of all three [REC] films). And Mama is worth feeling edgy about. She looks quite contorted, distorted and disturbing, moves like a bipedal yet quadriplegic demon on meth, and manifests an aura of decay. I felt effectively continuously worried about what this apparition was going to do next, and the pace of the movie never disappoints.
I feel like we've been trained to find piss poor acting to be totally acceptable when it comes to horror. But Mama's cast features nothing but competency and a few pleasant surprises. Of course, no one should be shocked that Jessica Chastain pulled off the stand-offish girlfriend turned hesitant parent. But what about young Megan Charpentier? As the reserved older sister Victoria and her stone cold portrayal of The Red Queen in the latest Resident Evil installment she has all the makings of both one of the youngest Scream Queens ever, but also a talented young actress!
This movie was a pleasure with good characters, a monster that I don't see too little, good effects (even if it is all just CGI) and a story I can swallow. I look forward to watching this with an easily scared date on my couch in the dark. ;)
86 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2013
Before I purchased this movie, I read a number of critic reviews and found them to be extremely mixed. Many critics liked the film; many disliked it. All called it derivative.
I can't say I agree. I really enjoyed this little creeper of a film! It may not be the best horror film in the whole wild world, but it certainly scared the crap out of me and my girlfriend. That's not bad for a PG-13 movie!
The story goes that a father goes on a murderous rampage, then kills his estranged wife and naps his two daughters. He drives off at crazy speeds and spins off the road. Surviving the accident, he wanders with his daughters through a cold, isolated woods until he discovers a seemingly unused cabin.
Flash forward five years. The kids' uncle has been looking for them all these years, and his investigators find them still living in the cabin; daddy is nowhere to be found. How the heck did those two little feral girls survive all that time on their own?
Or WERE they on their own?
This movie wasn't exactly subtle. It wasn't as if I couldn't foresee many of the plot twists, but it still scared the snot out of me. No tiny feat that! It reminds me of that other little horror gem Darkness Falls. Not a big movie. Not a perfect movie. But a damned good movie.
I highly recommend this flawed but thrilling film!
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2013
I'm a unique horror movie watcher: I'm utterly terrified/disgusted by gore and gratuitous violence, but I don't mind a good dose of morbidity and twisted metal states. This movie was a perfect balance because it had the quick cuts and jumps to get you gasping, but there was no gore or useless chainsaws. The story was morbid but plausible (who doesn't love a 19th century insane asylum ghost?) and the added unsettling concept of two little girls being raised in the words for five years without human contact, and how twisted that simply makes them, ghost aside, was great.
Good acting, great combination of jumping scares and a legitimately terrifying ghost in Mama; she was just my sort of horrifying: tattered shroud, distorted features, HAUNTED eyes, nightmarish voice. I'd suggest you watch this in a heartbeat. Definitely a nice surprise after a lot of mediocre horror flicks.
54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2013
Mama is a good semi-creepy horror movie about two young children who spend five years alone in the woods and are later found and adopted by their uncle (the Kingslayer actor from Game of Thrones) and his wife (the always great Jessica Chastain in full goth mode, trading in her trademark red hair for black and sporting tattoos). Of course, something the children call "Mama" comes home with them and thus the horror begins. Maybe a little too much CGI used, but most of it looked okay. All in all, this is a well made ghost story that packs a few scares and has good acting throughout.
42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
You might be wondering what acclaimed actress Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty") is doing in a goofy-named horror flick. She's actually in good company with award winning stars like Nicole Kidman ("The Others") and Naomi Watts ("The Ring" 1 & 2) to name a couple. Here Chastain plays Annabel, a Suzi Quatro-like bassist in a punk rock band, complete with short dark hair and tatted up arms. She is the main squeeze of Lucas, a starving artist type played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, perhaps best known as the incestuous prince on "Game of Thrones."
The story begins with the twin brother of Lucas going on a killing rampage that includes fellow workers and his wife. He takes his 2 young daughters out into the country with similar intent. Before he can commit the deed a mysterious apparition intervenes. Five years later Lucas is still trying to find out what happened to his brother and nieces.
Ultimately found, the girls have somehow managed to survive but are little more than wild animals. Director Andres Muschietti manages to provide enough suspense to keep viewers on the edge on their seats using quick cuts and lighting. At the same time, he also resorts to the usual "gotcha" moments complete with a jolting sound effect.
Annabel is the main focus in the story however as the girlfriend who reluctantly has to take over child care duties after Lucas is hospitalized thanks to an induced fall down a flight of stairs. Chastain is excellent in the role and proves her dramatic range. "Mama" is an above average horror film that relies on suspense rather than gore for chilling effects. For me the ghostly presence's transformation to a CGI manifestation in the final act was unnecessary and changes the tone of the film somewhat. Still this is a pretty scary ghost story and worth a look.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2013
Really good movie. Reminds me a lot of the film The Woman In Black with Daniel Radcliffe. Mama is not a film i would consider "Scary" , but be mindful that, Mama does have its moments. I really admired and appreciated the pace of this film because so often horror films are really fast paced, that sometimes you can miss a key element or important plot point of the film. At 100 minutes I was expecting a quick,predictable movie. I am glad to say that is not the case with Mama. This is one of those RARE films that second after second, I was anxiously awaiting what was going to happen next. And THAT my friends, is a good thing. Jessica Chastain (being one of the better known stars of this movie) did a really great job as Annabel and the two young girls in the film, Lily and Victoria (Not known what their real names are) are absolutely splendid in Mama. The remaining supporting cast all did exceptionally well. And The Direction of this film is one of the best I have seen in quite awhile. I will not spoil any details of the story line, but if you watch this movie you are in for a pleasant surprise.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2013
When a father of 2 children kills their mother, they find themselves being driven into the woods by their on edge father who is unsure of what to do about the situation. On an icy road the car swerves out of control and collides into a tree on the side of the road. The father and two daughters leave the wreck and enter a cabin in the woods (face palm) where the father explains to the kids that mommy is not coming with them. He attempts to shoot the two young girls aged around 2 and 4, but something else is in the house which stops him from killing the kids, and instead reverses his idea. The spirit known as mamma adopts the girls and we cut to 5 years later where the brother of the kids father is still in search of what ever happened to his brother and the kids? Finally they have been found, wild, weird and animalistic like. They are then taken to a hospital or psychiatric care facility or whatever before being put in the custody of their uncle and his girlfriend Joan Jett. It's not long before they begin to notice that something else has come with them, and it doesn't like the noobs.
WARNING SPOILER ALERTS: Don't read on unless you want to.
The first half of the movie is decent. However out of nowhere comes the idea that Mama is a bad entity and her history is revealed that she is a bad person. Her intention in the end is she is going to sacrifice the kids. Huh? First she rescues them, then raises them for 5 years, only to want to kill them? This protector to killer plot turn made no sense. She does not abuse them, she takes care of them, yet she is only waiting to kill them? Ok then... dumb idea... the kids become animal like and walk like their mama, like a monkey or something, yet instantly the eldest girl remembers how to walk upright and speak English... but the other one remains the same for a while, but slowly begins to return to human-like. Pick a direction already, are they f'd up, or not? They just become normal again and the youngest one they say probably wont speak just wakes her sister in the night by walking normally over to her and saying "mama's here"? It's not a huge plot hole, but to me it would be like Hulk Hogan breaking character in the middle of a wrestling match and asking for some tea while he plays a round of crochet with the Queen. They may as well have had mama stop to look into the camera, break the 4th wall and say calmly, "remember, this only a movie, don't be scared, look at me UN-rendered as a 3D polygon"
Then the ending. Are you kidding me? The cliff and mama is flying around all over the place? Make up your mind, is she a crawler or a flyer? It went from slightly believable to extremely laughable. And what was the point of the side story of the ghosts baby? She finds it, cries about it, euhh, bugger it, be angry. Was that needed if that's what the pay-off of that sub-story was about? They may as well have removed it all together, as it meant nothing in the movie. Then no big way to rid the ghost witch... nah, she'll do it herself and explode into butterflies. "Yes officer, we're ok now. One kid survived, but the other, well the butterfly witch committed suicide with her so we won't be needing her bed anymore, got a number for the Good Will?"
Overall: sucks you in enough to be interesting, then blows it in the end.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2013
I never want to watch a horror movie 2 times in a row, but this movie I wanted to watch it again and again. It has a great story, and some pretty freaky moments. "Mama" is based off of CGI, and personally I didnt find her all that frightening.On the other hand the two little girls in this movie are very horrifying when they are making the adjustment back to reality. I suggest this movie strongly to those who love a thriller with a solid story.
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes it feels like there is nothing new in horror movies -- we just get remakes, sequels, and movies that rely more on gore and nudity than real horror.
But sometimes... very occasionally, we get a movie like "Mama." This is the closest we're probably going to get to a "La Llorona: The Movie" -- an eerie, creeping brand of horror that quietly slips behind you instead of leaping out of dark corners with a screech. And it doesn't hurt that the acting is pretty uniformly brilliant in this movie, even if Jessica Chastain's character arc is a bit predictable.
After murdering his wife and business partner, a distraught man named Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) escapes to a cabin in the woods with his two very young daughters. He plans to kill them and then himself, but something destroys him before he has a chance.
Five years later, the girls are found -- feral and naked, except for wreaths of flowers. Their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau again) immediately volunteers to care for them, although his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) is a little more reluctant. Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) supports their custody claim and even gives them a McMansion to live in, as long as he has access to the girls.
But something strange is afoot -- nightmares, moths and tales of someone the girls call "Mama." After Lucas takes a near-fatal fall down the stairs, both Annabel and Dreyfuss begin to suspect that "Mama" is not just a coping mechanism, but something that spent years raising the girls in the woods. And she won't let anyone else take care of "her" children.
It really annoys me when people insist that "PG-13 horror always sucks!" -- if it's done with atmosphere and skill, it doesn't need an R-rating or a big budget. "Mama" doesn't have a lot of jump scares or grotesque images -- it relies instead on a creeping sense of unease, draped in shadows, fluttering moths, dead leaves and sepia-toned decay.
Andres Muschietti has never directed a full-length movie before, but frankly I'm dying to see what he comes up with next. He already has a lot of skill, such as the beautiful scene where we first glimpse Mama in the house -- a single shot of Lily playing with someone, as Victoria and Annabel drift in and out of other rooms. It's a quiet, unmoving shot, but we're left with the growing horror of knowing that SOMETHING unknown is in that room with a little child.
And the horror really amps up when we finally DO see Mama. She's a twisted, shadowy creature with scuttling limbs and windblown hair, but she also elicits our pity for her madness and sorrow. She's a classic ghost, and every attack makes perfect sense.
It also has some truly excellent acting from, well, EVERYONE. Coster-Waldau is absolutely heartbreaking as a man desperately devoted to his family, and willing to give up everything for his brother's children. Chastain also gives an excellent performance as Annabel, slowly warming up to the children as she slowly becomes aware that something supernatural is creeping into her new suburban life. The one problem: her transition from "rock chick who doesn't want kids" to "loving aunt" never feels quite natural.
And Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse... wow. Both of them are absolutely brilliant, which is all the more impressive because they're so young. They give beautifully nuanced performances, especially since they have to act like feral children for awhile. Wow. Like the director, watch these children.
"Mama" is the kind of horror movie that deserves to be a classic -- a dark, twisting story that relies entirely on the most classic kind of ghost there is. Definitely a must-see, even for people who aren't a big fan of horror.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2013
These days it seems like horror filmmakers are damned if they do and damned if they don't. The fans hate remakes but when they get original films, they refuse to support them over arbitrary reasons like ratings or a lack of blood. PG-13 or not, I made sure to get myself to the theater to see and support this and I wasn't at all disappointed. MAMA had an interesting story, impressive acting and a visually striking supernatural antagonist. There were definitely elements of Asian horror on display in this film, though MAMA relies a bit too much on CG. Thankfully the CG was animated relatively well so if you're willing to look beyond that and allow yourself to be swept up in the tension, MAMA is effective.
Sure, it won't be for everybody, and for fans of films like INSIDIOUS, SINISTER and THE CONJURING it may come off a bit lightweight but it was entertaining and, in my opinion, worth checking out. MAMA isn't amazing and just can't be considered a classic by any stretch of the word but it does the job.