Friday, October 11, 2013

Mama (2013)(Minor Spoilers Review)

**This review contains MINOR spoilers, no major secrets are revealed in this review**

Abandoned and left alone in a cabin in the woods, two young girls named Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) are rescued by professionals. Eventually, the girls are evaluated  by Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash), a child psychiatrist. Promising to take care of his twin brother Jeffrey’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) daughters, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is awarded custody of Victoria and Lilly with Dr. Dreyfuss’ help.

With some help from his girlfriend/rock musician Annabel (Jessica Chastain), Lucas tries to break Victoria and Lilly’s animal-like habits, but adjusting to modern civilization takes a backseat to a bigger problem. Obsessed with a dark entity nicknamed “Mama,” Victoria and Lilly confide in Mama as the only mother figure they’ve ever known. Who is Mama, and why is she so obsessed with Victoria and Lilly?

Chastain receives the most screen time, but she’s shackled by a generic character. Annabel is the struggling musician, who whines a lot, and she’s a rocker, so of course, Annabel has to act like a rebel bad ass. Chastain deserves a lot of credit, because she gave it her all with this character, but Chastain never had a chance for any breathing room to showcase her true talents (i.e. Take Shelter, Zero Dark Thirty, The Help), because Annabel is too one-dimensional. Charpentier delivers a stand-out performance, but I can’t say too much about Nelisse, because Lilly spends most of her time hopping around, eating random objects, and whispering “Mama.”

One of my bigger problems with Mama is, well we see too much of Mama here. At first, they show a slight glimpse of Mama, as she attacks and kills Jeffrey. Then, we see Victoria’s blurry POV of Mama, when Mama removes her glasses in the cabin. Still, you don’t see a crisp and clear shot of Mama….but all of that changes as the film progresses. After a while, you’ll see one too many clear views of Mama, and the exposition kills the mystique for Mama. The tease shots work better, because that way, you’re still imagining Mama’s physical form. You’re still pondering the identity of this malicious figure, and you’re probably thinking Mama must be pretty horrible, if they don’t show you a full view of her.

That’s another problem, once you actually see Mama, she’s not that scary or intimidating. You can blame a lot of that on the CGI. The CGI isn’t too tacky or anything like that, but Mama’s supposed to be evil and dangerous. Instead, the CGI turns Mama into some kind of PG-13 zombie, who’s capable of flying.

I counted one or two good jump scares, and there’s a creepy moment, when Annabel mistakes Mama for Lilly, but that’s about it. And yeah, I don’t know what they were going for with Victoria and Lilly. Victoria and Lilly (especially Lilly) hop around like feral creatures, and on top of that, they behave and look like wild animals. Yeah, sorry, but Victoria and Lilly’s antics brought one too many unintentional laughs out of me.

Still, Mama TRIED to be something different, and I might sound like a broken record, when I say this, but as always I appreciate the effort. It’s nice to see a successful mainstream PG-13 horror film that’s not your annual hokey exorcism film, or another lame PG-13 found-footage flick. On top of that, Mama isn’t another generic R rated gore fest, that relies on tons of blood, guts, and nudity to sell tickets. Mama isn’t perfect by a long shot, but it’s good enough to hold your attention for one hour and forty minutes. Also, I hope they provide a more thorough and detailed explanation for some noticeable plot holes (the cabin, Mama, etc.) in the planned sequel.

Rating: 6/10

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