It would be hard for me to find a movie that was released recently that collapses on its ass as spectacularly as Mama does. The film is actually quite decent in its first hour, but its last 30 minutes are so incredibly fucking stupid you feel as if you were watching an exclusive glimpse into Tim Burton's mind if he was imagining what Corpse Bride would be like as a horror feature film...and then as if his visions crossed to Guillermo Del Toro being high during mother's day. It's fucking crazy and not in a good way.
Mama follows two little girls. When Lilly was only a baby and Victoria was about 4 or 5 years old (from the looks of it), their dad went insane, killed their mother, took them inside the car and started driving. The car crashed and the three of them found themselves in the middle of the woods. They stumbled upon the cabin (sounds familiar?). Just as daddy was about to shoot Victoria, something interrupted him, dragged him away and killed him, saving the girls.
5 years later we see that crazy dad's twin brother - Lucas (Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) never stopped searching for his brother and the girls. He even took their dog to live with him (Mama scores some points from me because nothing bad happens to the dog, so imagine how low the score would be if the dog died). Lucas has a girlfriend - Annabel (Jessica Chastain, in yet another thankless role). One day he gets a call - the girls were found.
The problem is that the girls are feral - they behave like wild animals. They were on their own for 5 years and them coming back to the society will not be easy. Lucas and reluctant Annabel take them in, which requires them moving to new house. The psychologist who looks after the girls is worried - they keep mentioning the mysterious Mama. First he thinks she is just something they imagined. But then he becomes convinced Mama is a ghost...
The film starts off like your usual horror flick - there is some drama, freaky cabin and the promise of terrible CGI later on. Then we have pretty decent music playing over the opening credits - which consists, of course, of children drawings showing us how Lilly and Victoria survived in the woods. At first it was really good - Lucas and Annabel's efforts to help the girls were touching and the bond between the sisters was adorable (the way Lilly clung to Victoria all the time).
It was refreshing, in a way, how they tried to do something else here and made Anabel into the character that was tough to like - as the film progressed I warmed up to her and Chastain was doing whatever she could with the role (though I'm baffled as to why she took it in the first place). Waldau is a terrific actor so it's a shame he is so underused here as I would actually much preferred if the film just focused on him. Anabel was here because it appears to be some weird requirement in horror genre that you have to have scared female and have her love the kids in the end. It's like we are still living in middle ages.
The little girls were actually the ones who delivers the best work in the movie - especially Megan Charpentier as Victoria. The scenes between her and Anabel were quite moving and I also loved the scene where Anabel hugged Lilly until she calmed down. Too bad the ending kinda ruins the entire dynamic between these two and is yet another thing that reminds you of how poorly this movie is written.
There are few quite tense and suspenseful moments in the movie, when
Anabel is wandering around the apartment. You just have a feeling something
will happen. Unfortunately, Mama suffers from the same maladies that most
contemporary horrors have - horribly bad CGI and overexposure to the
horror's antagonist. There were literally two good horror movies in the
last two years (excluding the Cabin in the Woods) -
Insidious and Sinister. While Sinister suffers from those two diseases too but to much lesser extent, Insidious was brilliant because it only showed us glimpses of the monsters.
The way Mama's monster looks is just laughable. At first it's
creepy because we only see glimpses of her. But when we finally see all of her,
even in quick moments - I don't think this can scare anyone. It's not
even that the design is uninspired, it's that the CGI
is so incredibly fucking terrible it looks like something you would
make on your home computer. Mama is actually played by the real actor - Javier Botet - who delivered extremely creepy horror moment in REC. The problem is that they added so much bad CGI on him here and it looks like cartoon. And then of course there are distorted movements, Exorcist-style. Why are all the movie ghosts nowadays disfigured and moving like robo-spiders? Is this supposed to be scary?
The back story of the monster is 1. stupid 2. underdeveloped 3. makes no fucking sense. And don't even get me started on the ending. It was the worst horror movie ending I've seen in the last few years. Honestly, even Del Toro's previous misstep - Don't be Afraid of the Dark - had an ending that was better than this. I guarantee you that you will laugh your ass off when you see what happens in the last 10 minutes of this movie. The only thing funnier would be if they showed us how Anabel and Lucas attempt to explain what happened to the police.
The film could have been really good - just because it is based on 3-minute long short film Del Toro loved and decided to produce feature film based on doesn't mean that the story had to suck. They had everything in place here and really all they had to do was come up with a good back story for Mama and they couldn't even do that. The script was written by 3 (!) writers including the director of the short and the feature film - Andrés Muschietti. It's baffling - for him himself to come up with such a ridiculous story that basically ruins two of his projects at the same time and for the other two not to do anything about it. Still even with such scattered mess of a script what really buries this movie is the horrible CGI.
Del Toro is really loosing his touch. While whenever he directs the results are good he should really be more careful with the crap he is promoting with his name. The only people who will enjoy this movie are fans of Chastain though she has one of the worst wigs I've seen here. That thing was actually scarier than the monster.
Mama (2013, 100 min)
Plot: Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces. The girls were almost killed by their father and after he was died they were left alone in the forest for 5 years.... but how alone were they?
Neil Cross (screenplay), Andrés Muschietti (screenplay),Barbara Muschietti(screenplay)
Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier