On The Edge Films

Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds


2013/ Spain, Canada

Director:  Andrés Muschietti

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster- Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, Jane Moffat

The interesting casting and production choices make for an appealing lure which will bring in a host cinema go-ers for this film.  The fact that it stars Oscar nominated Jessica Chastain and is produced by Guilhermo Del Toro is where the interesting parts of this film stop however.

Mama tells the story of sisters Victoria (Charpentier) and Lily (Nélisse) who go missing in a large expanse of woodland for five years after their Father kidnaps them and is then inexplicably killed by a strange paranormal force. Five years later and his identical twin brother Lucas (Coster- Waldau) is putting his entire finances into scouring the woodland in an attempt to find his nieces. You’ll notice that he plays his twin brother/ the girl’s Father Jeffrey in the opening sequence which is rather confusing to say the least. Aiding him is his punk rocker girlfriend Annabel (Chastain) who seems reluctant to even grow up let alone take on the challenge of motherhood, more at home playing bass in her band than cooking dinner. The girls are then found in the same cabin in which their Father met his grizzly demise and we discover them living feral, crawling like dogs and having forgotten how to speak English. Lucas and Annabel win custody of the girls but at a price. They must move into the house that Jeffrey and his anonymous wife lived before the girl’s were kidnapped. It’s suggested that Jeffrey killed the girl’s Mother but this is a major plot hole that needed fixing. Lucas is soon subject to an “accident” leaving Annabel as the sole carer for the two girls. As events progress Annabel begins to realise that the girls brought something very evil back with them from their time in isolation and with the help of psychologist Dr. Dreyfuss (Kash) they begin to discover the truth of the fictitious Mama that the girls talk about and they deduce that Mama may not be a creation after all…

This really is quite a poor film, you’re left waiting for the inevitable ‘big twist’ that never happens. You’ll be quite aware after twenty minutes what’s going to unfold if you pay attention. The mistakes in the plot get worse as the time runs on and we get what can be described as a rather limp conclusion. For instance; why does the spirit Mama get rid of Lucas early on and then torment Annabel when she could easily kill her? Why does Dr. Dreyfuss keep secrets about the girl’s confessions to him from Annabel, secrets that are vital to hers and the children’s safety? Why do they have to move into the house where it’s quite possible the girl’s were witness to the murder of their own mother? Why does said house have over 8 rooms when it only contained a family of four? And WHY did a small wooden cabin not feature on any maps of the woodland when Lucas spent five years searching for his nieces… we live in a world when infrared scanning and satellite photography exist yet it took five years to find a building in which two small children were running in and out of… FIVE YEARS!!! This isn’t half of the awful mistakes that this film is populated by… I could ramble on all day about how truly awful it is.

The one positive here is the cinematography, the film is shot quite well (something we may be able to attribute to Del Toro) which earns it some bonus points. However, it’s then let down by how shocking the creature of Mama looks. Imagine Cher covered in mud and you’ve got a perfect image of a monster that’s supposed to make your hairs stand on end. Mama also sounds like a draining sink and is about as scary as that red thing in ‘Insidious’… in fact in comparison that thing is bloody terrifying!

If you want to be scared, don’t go and see this film. If you want intrigue, don’t go and see this film. If you want to be in anyway entertained, frightened or satisfied by your cinematic experience then avoid this at all costs. In the pantheon of low budget horror films it will be one of those that ends up in the DVD bargain bucket at Blockbusters in years to come and would have been better suited to a straight to DVD release rather than becoming the expensive flop it truly is.


-Josh Senior


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