Director Andres Muschietti’s eerie horror ‘Mama’ is a fine example of what happens when young filmmakers are given the resources they need to explore their artistic vision. Regardless of a disjointed plot, there is no question that this film is truly shocking. Though the film lacks the full fluidity of major Hollywood blockbusters; it certainly puts a lot of the more established filmmakers to shame.
Mama has a simple premise. Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Annabelle (Jessica Chastain) have taken on the task of rehabilitating, Lucas’s orphaned nieces after they are found dwelling in the woods. The only catch being that the girl’s primary care giver for the previous 6 months was a supernatural monstrosity known as ‘Mama’, and she wants the girls back.
Jessica Chastain plays the ‘unlikely’ female heroin Annabelle and gives a great performance as the punk-rocker turned single mum. Making up for the slight inadequacies of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Lucas, an animator turned stepfather who spends half the film in a comber. However, the most stunning performances of all are the two young feral starlets Victoria (Megan Carpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse). The two girls not only work off of each other incredibly, they portray a spectacular array of emotions with very little dialogue and are actually (unlike most children in horror films) creepy as hell.
Visually the film really speaks for itself, the film is unforgivingly creepy. Some sequences stunningly inventive (Lillie’s tug of war game with the creature Mama), while others exquisitely tense; the Rear Window/Hitchcock-esque flashbulb sequence is simply awesome. With the help of Del Torro’s Special Effects Company D.D.T. the monster Mama is a uniquely terrifying spectacle. Blending graphic, prosthetic and animatic mediums to create a true monster. Not to mention, Cinematographer Antonio Riestra’s use of washed out colours and seemingly natural shadows elevate the eerie tone of the film to a level that should excite the ‘Horror Community’ at large.
Despite all this, the films plot is lacking, leaving the audience feeling a little bemused at times. Key emotional moments are unexplored as a whole throughout the film, particularly that of Annabelle and Victoria, and Mama’s back story leaves a lot to be desired. The films aims; as voiced by Director Muschietti and Executive Producer Guillermo Del Torro, were to make the film emotionally engaging even with out the ghost. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t quite meet its aim. Unlike Del Torro’s own work, Muschietti does not capture the delicate mix of heartfelt drama and intense horror the story requires. However, the thrills of the film are so well crafted that these irregularities can be forgiven and simply chalked up to the fine tuning of a first time Director. If you fancy a thrill ride and supporting promising newcomers to the film industry see this film.
By Matthew Iredale