Rated PG-13 for violence
and terror, some disturbing images and thematic elements
Directed by Andy
Based on Mamá
by Andy Muschietti
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Running time 100 minutes
Budget $15 million.
A few years ago, I came across a short but brilliant Spanish short
film called Mama which was basically about nothing but two
girls trying to get away from their angry ghost mother. When I heard
it was being turned into a feature film, I was concerned about how the
hell they would pad out four minutes and was pretty certain it was
going to stink.
Much to my pleasant surprise, it’s actually pretty good and approaches
the material in an original way. Sure, it give into the temptation of
easy CGI throughout the film, but it’s put together and executed in a
very interesting way – even if it turns into more of a monster movie
and less of a ghost story, it’s still a damn fine monster movie.
In Mama, two little girls, missing for years, are found
living wild in an isolated cabin in the woods. While their only
surviving relatives, their uncle and his wife, ponder how the two
girls survived on their own, they give them a new home and
rehabilitate them back into society (with mixed results), but it turns
out that something has followed them to their new home, a spirit who
cared for the girls while they were on their own, and she is insanely
jealous of the girls’ new caregivers.
It’s an interesting story
– a story of a ghost who will do anything to be a mother and a mother
who seems like she would do anything to not be one. A nature vs.
nurture story with a terrifying spin. It’s a good angle to approach
the story particularly when it gives insight into why Mama is so
devoted to the kids – even the one who doesn’t want them eventually
grows to love them even if they are barely domesticated animals.
Mama goes the CGI route and plays its hand rather early
as far as the ghost is concerned, but on the other hand, it is a very
creepy monster. A misshapened mass of hair and hatred with the body of
an anorexic contortionist and the attitude of a dyspeptic puff adder,
Mama is a character that is disturbing to look at and so, in that
respect, it works. Yeah, I do still believe that your and my own
imagination can come up with more disturbing monsters than what I am
flatly shown on screen, but if I’m going to be explicitly shown
something, I’m glad it was at least scary.
gives me everything I want in a horror/monster movie. Scariness, some
dread, and some characters I like that I can root for. The story is
emotionally honest and never predictable and the actors do a pretty
great job of selling the situation.
Unfortunately, the story
falls apart during the third act as Mama goes from being this
mysterious and dangerous force of nature to just another character in
the lineup, but the movie more than earned its stripes during its run.
It may be flawed, but its still effective as a good old fashioned
monster movie. Not a ghost story, but a monster movie. Still, it’s a
damn good monster movie.