The Low Down – Ruined by the 2008 financial crisis, Jeffery kills his business partners and his estranged wife before kidnapping his two young daughters, Victoria and Lily. Driving at speed on an icy road, his car spins out of control before landing in nearby woods. Surviving the crash, Jeffrey takes his daughters to an abandoned cabin planning to kill them both before committing suicide. Holding a gun to Victoria’s head, Jeffrey is about to pull the trigger before a shadowy figure intervenes…
Review – Based on Andres Muschietti 2008 short and produced by Guillermo Del Toro, Mama is a film that wears its influences on its sleeve. A horror movie in the classic mould, it borrows gleefully from every corner of the spectrum. Atmospheric and brooding, Mama chooses to downplay moments of gore and graphic violence and amp up the creepiness, creating a claustrophobic and intense environment punctuated by moments of genuine fright.
Some may find Muschietti’s cinematically literate approach enjoyable, gaining as much pleasure from successfully spotting each reference to classic horror movies as from the narrative itself. Others will find the visual approach, plotting, characters and storyline overly familiar, even a little played out.
There are some excellent performances at the heart of the movie; Jessica Chastain stands out particularly as the reluctant step aunt to the troubled girls, whilst Megan Charpentier, in her first major role, is impressive as Victoria. Mama doesn’t offer us anything new, re-treading familiar horror movie ground. However it’s expertly paced and competently edited, meaning the scares are both consistent and genuine.
The Best – An interesting and courageous final act rescues the film from horror movie anonymity as do some strong central performances. The director’s affection for the horror genre is obvious.
The Worst – Horror fans will find this all a little too familiar. Creepy kids, spooky, scrawled drawings and haunted houses are a little clichéd for most modern audiences.
Verdict – Mama is a slick and occasionally smart movie that does more than most recent entries into the horror genre in its attempts to engage its audience. Moreover, the films slow burn approach is commendable as is its rejection of cheap schlocky gore. Genre aficionados will have seen it all before but it’s still a solid scary movie.
Celluloid Influences – Insidious + Ringu = Mama