Starring Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, Jane Moffat, Morgan McGarry, David Fox, Dominic Cuzzocrea, Christopher Marren
Directed by Andrés Muschietti
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
If I were to judge movies solely on how much they entertained me, then Mama would rank pretty high. Not at the level of a favorite, or even a great experience, but one that simply does its job and delivers the fun supernatural thrills I’m looking for in a ghost story. The plot isn’t all that hard to figure out if you’ve seen any previous ghost story, but the creepy tactics it uses to sell itself were more than enough to win me over. I rarely get scared anymore during these kinds of films, but even after I had turned the lights back on after the movie I was still twisting my head to look behind me, convinced that Mama was there to swallow my soul.
The film opens during the 2008 financial crisis that swept the US, and one man affected by it has snapped. He kills his wife and drives away on icy, dangerous roads with his two young daughters. Their car goes over an embankment, but they survive and seek refuge in an old cabin in the woods. He clearly isn’t a horror movie fan, as you know as well as I do that you should generally turn around if you encounter a creepy old cabin in the middle of nowhere. Ah, but if they did, we wouldn’t have a film! From here, the story goes into an unexpected but fun direction, but I will say no more. In a film that hits a lot of the same notes as many other ghost stories, you need to know the least amount possible so that the film is able to play with all the cards in its deck.
The premise is a good one, or at least this version of the tried and true premise is well-told. I would have liked fewer contrived plot bits, but overall I can’t complain too much. Even when the film ventures into territory where I raised my questioning eyebrows, I was having too much fun to care. Logic has no place in something like this. I guess my main issue was how unbelievable it was to have certain characters at certain places merely to facilitate the plot the filmmakers wanted to have. Perhaps with another couple of rewrites they could have hammered these problems out. Like I said, it didn’t matter so much to me, but this will definitely lessen the film’s impact to a lot of viewers who are less kind to genre films than I am.
So this October if you’re looking for a modern ghost story that will get under your skin (and you’re not an anal, cinematic nitpicker), Mama is a great choice. I won’t say that the film is especially well-made, but there are some brilliant moments sprinkled here and there. The creep factor is always turned way up, too, although I will admit to thinking kids are a bit creepy anyway. Just go in prepared for nothing more than some enjoyable thrills, and Mama will cover you in a warm blanket of terror.