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Good acting, a monster that I don't see too little, good effects and a story I can swallow...we have a winner!
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. ;)