A film that shows Mama doesn’t always know best

Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain

Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) presents Mama – an eerie story of death and loss, succeeding only because of its unoriginal use of suspense and gut-wrenching jolts.

Like most other horror films, the audience are manipulated into believing they have just seen an epic, scary movie. It depends what you are wanting out of the cinematic experience, but being a sceptical movie viewer myself, I left the screen with nothing other than the utmost disappointment. Heart-stopping, breath-taking, toe-curling revulsion? Yes, it’s got all of that… but is that all that makes a good horror film? 
Mama tells the tale of two daughters Victoria and Lilly, left abandoned in the woods after their ruined father murdered their mother. After surviving for five years on a diet of cherries and moths, their father’s brother Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) finally rescues the girls and offers them a home with himself and his goth-rocker girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain - pictured above), but whatever it was that took care of these feral creatures is reluctant to let them go. A phantom figure nicknamed ‘Mama’ - a black spiritual character with a face of despair - is willing to do everything in her power to keep the girls under her maternal care, mourning the loss of her own baby long ago.
Underneath the subversive façade of creeps in the dark, flashes, scuttles and ear-piercing shrieks is a somewhat compelling allegory about the everlasting love of a mother and the anguish surrounding the death of a parent or child. 
However, Muschietti fail to create a film that could have the potential to inspire and shock an audience, instead producing a piece of cinema that yes, can release adrenaline and get your heart racing, but doesn’t stick in your mindfor any longer than one (albeit, daunting) night. 
The makers of this film have focused too much attention on deliberately scaring their watchers and have thus neglected to emphasise a story that already has the ability to astonish and panic, without the embarrassing frontage of slamming doors, creaks, shrieks and whispers in the night. 
What makes this film watchable is of course the undeniable scare-factor, but also a refreshingly bold performance from the always impressive Jessica Chastain. If it wasn’t for the Zero Dark Thirty star, then the movie would fall flat and carry no charisma whatsoever.
Mama is not a film that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. For an adrenaline fix, or something to go see when you’re bored, Mama is not completely unbearable as it does tick the boxes of a cliché horror film. However, the direction, cinematography, production and dire script of this movie are what make it a dull and unoriginal motion picture that will be forgotten within a few months.

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier.

Director:  Andrés Muschietti

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