Review - Mama

Mama (2013), PG-13, 100 minutes - Jessica Chastain is ruling the box office right now, starring in the two top grossing movies in theaters this past week.  One is Zero Dark Thirty (for which she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress), and the other is this little horror film based right here in Virginia (it had a $15 million budget and made over $32 million over its first week).

Mama begins in tragedy just after the beginning of the financial collapse in 2008, a man named Jeffrey (Nikolaj Costar-Waldau) murders a co-worker and his estranged wife before taking his two daughters (three year old Victoria and one year old Lilly) and fleeing town.  Driving too fast on snow covered roads, he loses control and they slide off the side of a mountain road and crash in the woods.  The three of them survive the wreck and come across an abandoned cabin after fleeing the scene.  Once he's started a fire, Jeffrey breaks down in another room.  After regaining some composure, he comes back to the girls, planning to kill them both and then take his own life.  But before he can, a shadowy figure grabs him from behind, snaps his neck and disappears.  Victoria and Lilly are left to survive seemingly on their own.  Jump to five years later.   Their Uncle Lucas (also played by Coster-Waldau) is living with his wannabe rock star girlfriend Annabel (Chastain).  He has been relentless in continuing the search for his nieces, to the point that his latest payment to his search crew didn't clear.  Fortunately, the remains of the wreck are found shortly thereafter, leading to the discovery of the abandoned cabin and the girls.  They are feral, barely resembling the now eight and six year old girls that they should be.  After being observed and counselled by Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) for a time, they move into a house with Lucas and Annabel.  Victoria (Megan Charpentier) begins to readjust to civilized life but Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) has a much harder time of it.  Strange things begin to happen at the house and the girls keep talking about someone or something they refer to as Mama.  Eventually we learn more about Mama and her motivations, but I won't spoil that here.

Mama is the feature film debut of director Andrés Muschietti, and expands upon his short film of the same name from 2008 (which can be seen in the spoiler section below).  A short that Guillermo del Toro felt was so creepy that he had to help produce the big screen version.  The cast is above average for a horror flick.  They really give the characters heart, which gives us viewers something emotional to latch onto and care about.  Jessica Chastain continues to show her amazing range, here playing a woman who starts off wanting nothing to do with children, but then developing a very strong emotional tie to the girls.  Coster-Waldau will be familiar to fans of HBO's Game of Thrones (where he plays Jamie Lannister).  His role, or should I say roles, are not as large as Chastain's, but they are every bit as important to the story.

I shouldn't forget to mention the visual effects.  They're very good for a film with this size budget.  Some of them  can even be seen in the original short film (Mama's rising, floating-in-water-like hair).  Proof that well done effects can be affordable

Mama is very creepy.  It provides a handful of moments that will make you jump, but does so without being a gory bloodfest.  In my book, that makes it the perfect kind of thrilling horror flick.  A couple of the story beats are predictable, but the most important one - the ending - is not.  And that makes it even that much more enjoyable.  If you like creepy, suspenseful movies, or even if you're like me and have a soft spot for anything with Guillermo del Toro's name on it, then you definitely want to check this out in theaters.












*****SPOILERS*****

- Mamá (2008), NR, 3 minutesHere Andrés Muschiettii's original short film from 2008 (I'm sharing it here in the spoilers section as it is virtually the same as a scene from the movie):



- Mama is set in and around Richmond and Clifton Forge, VA, although it was filmed in Canada (a couple scenes were shot around Washington, D.C.).  I am curious to find out if there was any particular reason behind it being set here in Virginia?  There didn't particularly seem to be any defining story characteristics that would have made it necessary to be set here, especially considering that they didn't even shoot in the actual locations. 

-  I really enjoyed the shift from Lucas to Annabel in the narrative as the primary guardian for Victoria and Lilly.  The shift made sense within the story being told, and it was interesting to see Annabel's change of heart in regards to the girls.

- The more I think about it the more I love the twist at the end.  Lilly going with Mama and unknowingly sacrificing herself (because life with Mama is all she is familiar with) while Victoria returns to civilization with Lucas and Annabel really is an interesting way to end things. 

Comments

  1. I'm just a random lady originally from Lexington, but have lived in MA for years. I just got out of the movie, totally amused that it was Clifton Forge. huh? There's not much going on there...lol. Your blog came up, and I was glad someone else appreciated how RANDOM that was. I think they just liked the name, and the rusty sign.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My fiance and I were thinking the same thing. At first I wondered if it could be some other Clifton Forge somewhere, then they mentioned Richmond. It was a nice little nod and I'm also glad that someone else was amused by it. Thanks for the post and for checking out my blog!

      Delete
  2. Tim, I currently live in Roanoke Va.,..when I heard the record keeper mention Clifton forge and Douthat lake, I knew it couldn't be a coincidence, two places with uncommon names that are geographically next to each other, not to mention her saying Clifton forge is 200 miles from falls church which it is,(209 to be exact). I've frequented Douthat state park often to trout fish, it's only 50 miles from where I live in Roanoke...with all this said, I have a feeling these places could have been mentioned, but shot somewhere else in Canada possibly...do you know for sure?...please respond

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. According to imdb.com Mama was filmed in three different locations in Ontario, Canada. I had also read somewhere that a couple scenes were shot in D.C.'s surrounding areas. Living in Roanoke myself (did the name of my blog give it away at all? haha), I appreciated the proximity of which the story took place, even if there wasn't a clear reason as to why it was based there. Thanks for checking out my blog and taking the time to comment!

      Delete
  3. Tin, sorry for not responding sooner, but yeah I kinda figured there was some correlation in the name you chose, I moved here from Blacksburg after having spent 5 years there going to school. I had heard long ago while in Blacksburg people refer to Roanoke as the "Noke", and yes that did catch my attention....thanks for the info on this movie, I will make this a site I frequent often from now on, you're doing an excellent job on it...and thank you for your response!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate the support. I ended up in town here after four years running around the 'burg myself. It's been 12 years now...hard to believe! Thanks again for checking in!

      Delete
  4. Just found your blog so sorry for the uber late comments but it made me think a bit of Bunny Man's bridge in Clifton as there was a asylum around there as well but I think it closed around the 50's? But there's a ghost/horror story associated with that maybe they got the area's confused or was inspired by it? But I'm sure all asylum's have some sorta horror story ghost story associated with it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunny_Man is the link to that story, not that it's really remotely like Mama, but still interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No need to apologize, that's one of the great things about the web - it isn't always as time sensitive as we make it out to be! I just appreciate your taking the time to check out my blog. And thanks for the share on the Bunny Man story, it's always interesting to learn about urban legends, especially when they're somewhat local.

      My apologies for taking so long to reply to your posts. I was out of the country on my honeymoon and checking in on the blog wasn't much of a priority while exploring Rome...haha

      Thanks again!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Collected Comic Review - Daredevil by Mark Waid Omnibus Vol. 1

Collected Comic Review - Wonder Woman by George Perez Omnibus Vol. 2

Collected Comic Review - Iron Fist: The Living Weapon Complete Collection