Aside from a shaky final act. Mama benefits from its brilliant use of sentimentality and scraping gore in exchange for exhilarating thrills and unbearable tension. Leading its viewers on a chilling chase through a haunting fairytale, Mama is surprisingly heartfelt and loaded with dread. I suppose it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that Mama is a level above most of the trivial, uninspired entries into the horror/thriller genre. When Guillermo Del Toro lends his name to any film, he must see genuine merit. Although his track record should speak itself, needless to say, I trust him completely. Mama features Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain and a pair of terrifyingly adorable children, as they face a supernatural provider. Even with a finale that appears rather contrived. Mama manages to pull it all together for an enjoyable ride filled with paced scares and that’s not entirely cold blooded.
After a man kills several of his business partners and his estranged wife, he returns home to grab his kids and flee. When he speeds down a snowy road in the middle of a forest, the car slides off the road and into a tree. Upon finding a remote, deserted cabin, the man decides to take his own life as well as his kids. However, before he can pull the trigger he is murdered by a paranormal entity. Five years later, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the brother of the deceased murderer, and AnnaBel (Chastain) continue their search for the missing children. One day, they receive an alarming phone call that the search team they had hired found the kids. Although in deplorable conditions, the children are eventually able to return home with Lucas and Annabel. However, soon after the living arrangements are sorted out, strange events begin to take place.
What seems to be a disconcerting trend occurring far too often with modern horror is the inability to concoct a suitable ending. While it is somewhat of a letdown that Mama can’t complete its abundantly unnerving and effective story with a more satisfying closing. It isn’t as abhorrently unpleasant or confusingly atrocious like some recent, unwatchable films.
Following up a year in which saw her receive an Oscar nomination for The Help and deservedly earn another in Zero Dark Thirty. It seems a rather unusual choice for an actress of such a high caliber to take the lead in a paranormal horror. Nonetheless, Jessica Chastain doesn’t take anything for granted and continues her push for cinematic dominance in Mama. Besides the obvious change in outward appearance for the role. Chastain has an abrupt shift in her attitude in personality and guides it along very well. Watching her portray a woman struggle to earn parenthood while trying to keep her aspirations afloat will warm your bones. It may not live up to her more accomplished, respected roles, but it’s enough to showcase her talent once again and allow Chastain to explore her diversity.
For actresses of such young ages and at relatively early stages in their respective careers. Isabelle Nelisse and Megan Charpentier are thrust into a terrifying film with horrid scenarios. Being able to stand their ground when faced against a monstrous entity, let alone the flawless Jessica Chastain is something to brag about.
It’s gratifying to see that some film makers are taking notice of what’s happening beyond their own pane on other sides of the oceans. Mama infuses some of the more skin crawling elements of foreign horror films like A Tale of Two Sisters and Del Toro’s own The Devil’s Backbone. Not only does Mama pay homage to the truly unsettling facets of foreign horror, but also injects a staggering amount of emotion. Appearing to use them as some sort of muse.
With a cast that performs outstandingly, terrifying scares, and a heartwarming core, Mama delivers on most of its promises.
Mama: 7 out of 10.