A horror I was always keen to visit with producer Guillermo Del Toro’s name attached, but feedback had been shaky at best. Personally, the film wasn’t terrible, in fact it had a lot of atmosphere to give.
Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (of Game of Thrones fame) leads the film as Lucas, the brother of a father who disappeared mysteriously and how he has to care for his two nieces who had also disappeared only to be found alone in a woodland cabin. The two very young girls are traumatised from their experience, believing in a spiritual guardian they call Mama…
The film is a very simple premise, one of has been done before, but similar to Del Toro’s other production project The Orphanage, Mama has a lot of presence and atmosphere as well as some nice character development. I think my only grievance with the movie (asides some mildly frustrating horror tropes and cinematography cliches) would be some dodgy CG imagery for the entity Mama. Mama’s design is very intense and subtle, her hair moving as if underwater, but it feels as though the technology wasn’t there to fully render her – her hair being a prime example.
The film is very murky but has excellent use of shadows and camera angles. Much of the film revolves around the two young girls, Victoria and Lily, and fortunately they are mostly competent actresses! Victoria is the older of the two and has more to do than the traumatised Lily. While Nikolaj Coster-Waldau does well, his character’s girlfriend Annabelle steals the parent role midway through. Annabelle is part of a rock band (the film acknowledging how these two are not the sort to care for the two girls) Annabelle being the definition of unfit. The film does well to inspire confidence in her as it progresses.
Some criticise the ending of this film, but without spoiling anything I felt it was effective in an unconventional sense; it was going one direction but quickly pulls the rug from under your feet.
I enjoyed it, though it has already dated with visual effects which is very disappointing as it makes Mama less threatening. The film has plenty of horror tropes that it stumbles over and works tiredly with, but that isn’t surprising for many horror films.