If nature has one lesson to learn, it’s to never get between a mother and her child. As Andres Muschietti’s Mama goes to show, it’s a bond that transcends our physical reality. When threatened or damaged, it can become very dangerous.
You may have noticed that I wrote Andres Muschietti’s Mama, not Guillermo del Toro’s Mama. That’s because Mama is a full feature film written and directed by Andres Muschietti, who also created the short film the feature version is based on. Guillermo del Toro is just the executive producer.
Here's a little explanation by del Toro followed by the scene from the original short film that inspired him to finance the Hollywood version.
Yes, del Toro is a talent that deserves the right to mainstream independent films like this with out my sniveling judgements. In fact, I think it’s great that Guillermo del Toro saw this short film and decided to help this up and coming director make something great. Fine and dandy, but just remember that Executive Producer essentially means you paid for it. You could replace the poster’s “Guillermo del Toro presents” with “Guillermo del Toro funded”. I suppose I stress this because I went into this film with the misunderstanding I was going into a del Toro film, but was corrected during the opening credits.
Rant over, onto the film.
I thought Mama was great. It’s nothing new. It’s nothing too groundbreaking, but for all it’s conventional-ism it's delivered very well. The plot intrigues without trying too hard. The character’s motivations are in a nice balance to each other. The movie draws you into it's creepy chills, while setting up some very successful jump scares, and then follows to comfort you with it's growing family bonds. A little predictable, but again very well done.
Jessica Chastain’s performance of Annabel really shined in the transition of her character in the later half of the movie from selfish, rocker chick to a cool step-mom. Again, the characters path is predictable but done well. The Oscar for best performance however, goes to the most important role; the kids. Kid performances can make or break movies but Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse nailed it. They’re believable, creepy, and perform the emotional scenes out without noticeably overacting.
Give it up for the kids!
Then there’s the title character, good ole Mama. Part of the fun of this film is learning for yourself, so I’ll be brief to avoid spoilers. First, I applaud the use of a costumed actress instead relying entirely on CGI. The ghost has a nice realism to it’s quirky death movement. Also, Mama is now the new queen of the jump scare. This movie got me good a couple of times, and I’m not usually an easy one to get the jump scare on. You can see them coming, and my body usually prepares. In this movie the jumps are predictable as well, but they still have some kind of unique timing to it that they got me to jolt. The scene that’s recreated from the above short film scene had an awesome Mama scare. I like the way Mama can go from the caring, ghost mom to the "I’m going to eat you" mom in a heartbeat.
All my praise aside, it wasn't a perfect movie. I had issues with some of the ending's events. Hopefully this won’t spoil it, but when you kill someone don’t just suddenly bring them back to life to make me happy. I’m not talking about the character that dies that you may think I’m referring to. I liked that little wink of how she’s still … around? O.K., now I'm beginning to spoil it. If you want a good theater scare done right, GO SEE MAMA!