The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Mama | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Mama

Directed by: Andrés Muschietti
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash

Two young girls survive five years in an isolated cabin protected by a malevolent spirit who follows them when they move in with their uncle and his girlfriend.

In 2008, as a result of the financial crisis, a businessman murders his colleagues and his wife before fleeing with his two young daughters. After crashing his car, he takes the girls to an isolated cabin. As he is about to kill them, a strange being interjects, saving the girls. Five years later, the girls, now feral, are discovered and placed in the care of their uncle Lucas (Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Chastain). The children speak of a spirit they call 'Mama', but this is passed off as an imaginary friend. Wanting to claim the girls for herself, Mama attacks Lucas, resulting in his hospitalization. Annabel is reluctantly left in charge of the girls and soon finds herself victimized by the jealous spirit.
'Mama' is a feature length adaptation of director Muschietti's 2008 short film of the same name. The original ran a mere three minutes and consists essentially of one scene, filmed in one single shot. This scene, involving the girls stalked through the house by the title character, turns up here as but one set-piece of the film. Here, the mysterious Mama figure is given a back-story, and that's the film's biggest problem. Much of the film is an above average ghost story but things fall apart in the third act when the hand of producer Guillermo Del Toro seems to take over. The story shifts from straight horror to the sort of fantasy we've come to associate with the Mexican. It's a jarring shift in tone which ruins the effective work done up to that point.
You wouldn't readily associate Chastain with such genre fare but she's as impressive here as you'd expect, giving life to a character who would otherwise just be another "final girl" archetype. Kudos must also be given to the two child actors, Charpentier and Nelisse, but the real star of 'Mama' is director Muschietti. He builds up the suspense brilliantly and is clearly a student of Hitchcock. There are nods to several of Hitch's films, the most effective being a brilliant homage to the safe robbing scene from 'Marnie'. Here, he positions his camera so we are looking both into the girl's bedroom and down the hallway, creating a fantastic moment of suspense as we see something occur in the bedroom which the character in the hallway is unaware of. Muschietti does a commendable job, telling the story in a simple but effective manner and I look forward to him working with better material in the future.
 Mama (2013) on IMDb 6.5/10