Mama (2013) – Andy Muschietti

Guillermo del Toro served as executive producer on Andy Muschietti’s Mama an interesting take on a ghost story that also explores the roles of parents, specifically mothers, while fostering some interesting and enjoyable scares with some pretty solid special effects.

Sisters Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) were thought lost when their father took them and ended up in a car crash in a forest. Five years later they are discovered living in a cabin and have regressed to a bit of a feral state.

Their closest family, an uncle, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is contacted, and he is eager to take them in, though his girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain) is less than thrilled with being a parent. But with some guidance from Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) and a completely subsidized house, Annabel is willing to give it a try.

Through some interesting shots, the film establishes something spooky, and a little frightening going on with the girls. The scenes of them playing in their room while Annable moves about the house around them are particularly well done.

When Lucas is injured after encountering something, Annabel is left to step into the role of the single parent while he recovers in the hospital. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one with maternal instincts towards the children.

As Dreyfuss digs into the mystery of who or what Mama is, we find ourselves immersed in a well-realized ghost story, tinted around the edges with a hint of a fairy tale, something that is alluded to at the beginning of the film with its ‘once upon a time’ introduction.

Javier Botet steps into the towering and frightening role of Mama and a combination of practical and visual effects bring the spectre to life as the story races to its climax. There are a few jump scares which, for the most part, are set up nicely, and earned.

Chastain, as always, is exceptional as are both the young girls who bring the sisters to life.

As Annabel struggles with the new role that of parental figure, something she wasn’t keen on, but comes around to through the course of the film, she is thrown into conflict not only with Mama but with Jean (Jane Moffat) who is the girls’ aunt from the other side of the family. Jean wants to raise the kids herself feeling that neither Lucas nor Annabel are inclined to parenthood.

In fact, the whole journey is about parenting in one way or another as well as knowing when, and when not, to let go.

Muschietti has a nice storytelling style, and his work with his sister, Barbara, who co-wrote the film with him, has proven to be very enjoyable. With his Flash movie on the horizon, I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next.


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