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REVIEW: ‘Mama’ offers scary bedtime story

On January 31, 2013


Horror movies creep me out. “Mama” was no exception.

After a father murders his wife and a few people at a business, he takes his two daughters on a drive on an icy road at breakneck speeds. They slide off the road and down a cliff.

The father and his daughters discover a cabin and take shelter. The father gets increasingly distraught and his daughters try to comfort him.

In a shocking move, the father gently goes to shoot his daughters, but right before he can pull the trigger, a dark shape seizes him and pulls him away into the blackness.

Five years later, the father’s brother Lucas, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is at the end of his rope searching for his two nieces. His job as an artist doesn’t pay enough for the searches to continue. He and his girlfriend Annabel, played by Jessica Chastain, live together in a small apartment.

In one final search, two old men and a hunting dog finally discover the car of Lucas’ brother. The dog sniffs around and leads the men to the cabin, where they find two animalistic girls.

The girls are brought to an institution where they are monitored by Dr. Dreyfuss, played by Daniel Kash, a kind man with an itch of curiosity. Dr. Dreyfuss interviews the older girl, Victoria (Megan Charpentier), over the course of three months to deduce the means whereby the girls survived for five years in the woods.

Victoria and her sister Lily, played by Isabelle Nelisse, talk about one person who helped them survive and protected them from harm. They call her Mama.

Lucas and Annabel visit Dr. Dreyfuss and slowly begin to get close to the girls. Dr. Dreyfuss recommends Lucas and Annabel for custody of the children if the couple will move into a house provided by the institution.

After a time in the house, Victoria and Lily continue to talk to Mama, sending Dr. Dreyfuss on a quest to uncover the truth and leaving Lucas, Annabel, Victoria and Lily alone in a house with the past.

Who or what is Mama and what does she want?

I knew “Mama” would be creepy based on a single viewing of the trailer, but it was creepier than I’d imagined.

Because I get terrified by horror movies, I don’t watch them often. I may be a poor judge on the scariness of the movie: You may need to consider that before spending your money.

Today’s horror genre seems to be all about blood and gore, and “Mama” effectively demonstrated scares using other methods.

The logic of the story was one of the most interesting qualities of the movie. One of the characters, after stating she’s not religious, describes ghosts as emotion bent out of shaped, doomed to repeat itself until whatever wrong was done to them is righted.

The movie was well written, the actors were amazing and the shots were spooky, but I won’t watch it again.

The music is forgettable. It works to set the mood and to enhance certain parts of the film, but composer Fernando Velazquez disappoints in creating a theme. He pulled from his previous horror movie experiences in “Devil” and “The Orphanage” to deliver another soundtrack, but the music was a rarity. Silence reigned as much as the music played.

Director Andres Muschietti takes the reins in his first full length movie. “Mama” will give him a solid foothold in the film industry.

One of the most advertised points of “Mama” was Guillermo del Toro’s position as executive producer. This movie easily fits into his style seen in “Hellboy” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Del Toro reportedly saw Muschietti’s short “Mama” and was scared so much he wanted to back a feature film.

Chastain gives a spectacular performance. Her goth character slowly evolves from a care free band member to a caring motherly figure. She had the most screen time, which gave her the most interactions with the other characters.

I’ve been impressed with her since “Blackbeard” in 2006, and she’s continued to impress in “The Debt,” “The Help” and the new hit “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Coster-Waldau wasn’t in the movie as much as I thought he’d be. He’s a great actor, as shown in “Firewall,” “Headhunters” and the television series “Game of Thrones,” but his abilities didn’t shine. On the other hand, he was successful in acting as both a traumatized father and a struggling caring uncle.

Coster-Waldau and Chastain made a believable couple, and this helped the movie feel more real. However, their talent is not worth the viewing.12

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