Anonymous of Holland            -A Dutchman in Korea-

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Anon Of Holland Reviews: Mama [US, 2013, 100 min.]

It’s been longer than I care to remember since I’ve seen a horror movie with a story that actually made even the slightest modicum of sense.
And that’s not because I don’t watch a lot of horror movies, mind you; horror is my favorite genre of movies even in spite of my extreme weakness for it. I greatly enjoy watching the creepy crawlies and while I definitely do not enjoy my usual 1-night-of-anxious-sleep that’s bound to follow any horror film I watch, I still think it’s worth it to watch at least 2 of them every week when I’ve got the time.Usually, however, the stories in these movies (especially the ones with ghosts as the main theme) are pants on head retarded. In their understandable urge to be mysterious and deep, horror movies often forget that even though scares are the main element of the genre it still pays to have a story that doesn’t have huge, gaping plotholes and actually pays off in the end and makes sense for the viewer.

t22

Cue Mama, a movie that has received lots of praise online and really doesn’t need me heaping even more praise on top of it…but I will.
I’m not one for giving summaries, but since I’ve decided I want this blog to at least sort of appear to be kind of legit, I’ll try anyway. Also, the rest of this review will include spoilers so only read on if you’ve finished watching the film. I’ll make the ending spoilers so that you can only read them if you select them though, so it is safe to read if you’re just interested in the general gist of the story.

Victoria and Lilly, two little kids (Lilly little-er than Victoria) get stranded in a creepy cabin in the middle of some creepy woods after their crazy father drives them out there to kill them. The tables are turned however when he ends up dead and the kids are left there to fend for themselves for five whole years.
The opening sequence of this movie is really well done, and the way you can see the two sisters devolving from two normal kids into feral walking on all fours animals by the way they draw themselves and the things they do on the walls of the cabin while the opening credits are rolling is a great way to get up to speed with the story without taking too much time. By the time they are found, they’ve changed into these super skinny really creepy little kids running around like animals and making weird sounds in the night, which makes some of these early scenes some of the most unsettling in the movie.
After they’re found, they get therapy and revalidation and finally end up being sent home with their crazy dad’s brother and his rocker girlfriend who really likes to make sure her cleavage looks good even when she’s sleeping. Of course, not all is well. Aside from the fact that both kids are pretty messed up from living alone in the forest for five years (Lilly, the younger one, especially can’t get used to normal life and acts more like a dog than anything else) there’s also increasingly messed up stuff going on around the house, leading to the caregiving Uncle being knocked into a coma, leaving the reluctant rocker chick to take care of both his fucked up kids.As the saying goes ‘never work with children or animals’, but in this case it definitely worked out for the best. In a lot of horror movies the kids are supposed to be the creepy ghostmonster so they don’t have to act much, and when they do it’s usually stiff as hell, but the kids in Mama perform admirably. Over the course of the movie Victoria, the older one, starts to develop a bond with the rock chick, whose character development is well portrayed as well. At first she’s extremely reluctant to take care of the girls, which is understandable since they’re seriously fucking messed up and freak her out constantly, but as time goes by and Victoria opens up to her more, you can really see her starting to care more and get involved more. It’s good to see this in a horror movie, since usually the characters are nothing but meat dolls who are supposed to scream and cower at the right times, or -even worse- xtremely rad teenagers with the personality of a bookmark. A particularly bland bookmark. I’d actually argue the characters are one of the strongest points of Mama, since you start to care more about them because they’re actually likable and relatable, which makes the stuff that happens to them all the more terrible.

t22Speaking of stuff:
It turns out the girls have a special little friend…only the friend is actually a creepy as all hell disfigured chick who lives in the closet, comes out to play with ‘her’ kids and wears people’s skin as a coat. Needless to say no one is really happy with that, and while the creepiness gets worse and worse and the kid’s psychiatrist dies at the hands of this hairy ghost lady, rock chick finds out by searching through said psychiatrist’s files what the reason for this haunting is.
And, as I said earlier, in this movie it actually makes sense! Well..you know..as far as a story like this can make sense.
Creepy disfigured lady once stole a baby (supposedly hers) out of a mental institution and tried to perform a dual suicide by jumping off of a cliff with it. However, the baby got stuck on a branch (yeah, okay, it makes more sense in the movie, I swear) and she’s been rotting in the sea water all by herself, her spirit searching the surrounding woods for her little baby. The surrounding woods, of course, being the woods where Lilly and Victoria were stuck for half a decade. The woman’s spirit had found them there and they accepted her as their Mama. When they were rescued, she followed them and got increasingly jealous of all the people around them which is why they ended up dead, missing, and as a skin suit.
*Spoilers*
In the end, the uncle wakes up from his coma and he and rock chick go back to the cabin, where Mama has taken the two kids and wants to pull them down the cliff where she had lost her baby so many years ago. Victoria, however, having forged a bond with rock chick and being generally normal after adjusting to regular life, doesn’t want to go but Lilly, still being a half-dog stupid kid, plunges to her death with her beloved Mama.
*Ending of Spoilers*
The ending sequence is genuinely touching, because for the first time in I don’t even know how many years they’ve actually managed to make you care about the characters you’re seeing on the screen. Generally, you’re just hoping people will get killed in the most gruesome way possible and ’emotional’ scenes have the impact of this amazing scene in the Twilight movies, but in Mama the ending really hits home, especially since you even start to care about that horribly disfigured ghost lady who just wants to find someone to love.

t22

There’s some critical things to say about this movie though, I suppose. The special effects are only so-so, with Mama’s hair being  especially poorly done in a lot of scenes, and the relative few ‘real’ horror scenes for people who think slasher films are also horror. Mama excels in the tried-and-true tension building though, and while it doesn’t provide anything we haven’t seen before in the tension and payoff scheme of things, the story and writing definitely sets it apart from anything else I’ve seen in a pretty long while. Director and writer Andrés Muschietti deserves all the praise he got, and probably about 80% of all the praise the movie got just because Del Toro’s name was on it as producer, for writing and directing such a wonderful entry in the genre. It’s not often a horror movie presents adequate scares, solid acting, likable characters, an understandable story and a ‘horror’ that you actually feel sorry for in the end.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, now’s as good a time as any.

VERDICT: 8/10

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This entry was posted on 28 May 2013 by in Film, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , .

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