There has been a recent trend in theatrically released horror films lately. While there are still the gory “torture porn” entries into the genre being produced, most films have been going towards more “spiritual” and “paranormal” based frights. This could be attributed to the popularity of the Paranormal Activity franchise but was also observed last fall with the releases of The Possession and Now You See Me.
In Mama, not only do we have a supernatural thriller, we have one that features creepy children, an abandoned house and a reluctant mother figure, something that Guillermo del Toro seems to be drawn to even when he’s not in the director’s chair.
The premise of the film follows a young couple, played by Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who are handed the task of carrying for two young girls who were alone in the woods for five years. However, things take a turn for the mysterious when the girls keep speaking to an entity they call “Mama.”
Mama boasts some pretty creative visuals and has a very solid presentation
Story-wise, the film starts out well and keeps you hooked while watching, but when you get to the bittersweet ending, you realize that there are some story elements that feel a little pointless and contrived. While the main characters have good development, some of the supporting cast seem a tad unnecessary.
The film falls prey to the forced exposition trope as well as having some scenes that, while providing some nice visuals, don’t really add to the story or move the plot forward.
The acting is pretty solid, especially from the child actors. However, there are some elements of the overall delivery that make things feel manufactured, particularly with the throw away characters. Some lines also feel a bit unnecessary, but that may be attributed to the screenwriter more than anything.
Detractions aside, Mama does manage to get in some good scares. It doesn’t entirely resort to jump scares like most films, but instead takes some cues from the Paranormal Activity films by presenting things that are out of the ordinary in a way that that keeps it subtle early in the film. As you get deeper into the story, the scares get more intense, until the third act where it begins to get kind of goofy.
Mama is one of those films where it’s good enough to see, but it has its fair share of flaws. It’s enjoyable when you watch it, but I wouldn’t recommend rushing out to see it right away. Wait until it’s playing at the dollar theaters.