Mama seems to be appearing in an awful lot of end-of-the-year-best-of articles and, while I hate to be contrary, I feel compelled to add my contradictory two pence…
When high-flying broker, Jeffrey, comes unstuck over some dodgy deals, he loses the plot, offs his partners and his wife, and heads for the hills intent on doing in his young daughters and himself. This last part of his plan doesn’t pan out though, thanks to Mama, who stops him before he can harm the girls.
One year-old Lilly and three year-old Victoria spend the next five years living in the woods, with only each other and Mama for company. During that time, Jeffrey’s identical twin brother Lucas, has searched tirelessly for the girls. When they’re eventually found, the lack of human contact has left them virtually feral making their return to the suburbs tricky, to say the least. Mama doesn’t really help matters, either.
This supernatural horror begins promisingly enough with a good set up, excellent cinematography and great performances, not least from the little girls. The presence of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones & Headhunters) and Hollywood favourite Jessica Chastain doesn’t hurt.
So what’s the problem? Well, instead of allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions about the nature of ‘Mama’, director Andrés Muschietti, gives the game away right at the start of the film. There’s no mystery about who or what Mama is. spoiler alert: Mama is a ghost. Snore! Fine, ok, I like ghost films but how about a little suspense? How about you let me try to unravel it myself? Mama could’ve been a figment of the girls’ imagination, created out of a desperate need for human contact with a nurturing mother figure. She could’ve been the physical manifestation of their primal need to be cared for and comforted. She could’ve been an unseen entity whose existence we aren’t sure of. But no. Right at the start of the film, there’s Mama in all her Ringu-style, spooky, ghostly glory. Urgh.
Honestly, Mama isn’t terrible, in fact there’s plenty here to enjoy if you’re a horror fan. I just thought it would be better if the filmmakers could give an audience a little more credit – we don’t always need everything spelled out. And given that it was based on a short film the director made in 2008, it really isn’t that bad.
Then there’s Mama’s back story which more than a little hackneyed and I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d seen this, or something very like it before. It reminded me of a Spanish film I saw ages ago, and only have vague memories of – KM31.
Not bad enough to be bad, but disappointing after a promising start.