Friday, October 11, 2013

Mama (2013)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

During the 2008 financial crisis, Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a distressed and broken businessman, murders his partners and his wife. Speeding home before the police have a chance to catch up with him, Jeffrey forces his daughters Lilly and Victoria into the car. After a crash in the woods, Jeffrey leads Lilly and Victoria into a seemingly abandoned cabin. Here, Jeffrey plans to murder Lilly and Victoria and commit suicide, but a malevolent entity kills Jeffrey before he can pull the trigger on Victoria.

Five years later, Jeffrey’s twin brother, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) pours all of his money into a never-ending search mission for Victoria and Lilly. Living with his girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain) Luke is struggling to make a living as a painter, while Annabel puts all of her time and energy into a floundering career as a rock musician in a small band.

One day, Lucas receives a call confrimng the retrieval of Lilly and Victoria, and with the help of a child psychiatrist named Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash), Luke and Annabel are awarded custody of Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) and Victoria (Megan Charpentier). Although, Victoria and Lilly aren’t used to modern civilization. Living in the woods forced them to adapt to a more primitive way of life, and the girls bring some of their Neanderthal  like habits to the real world.

Annabel and Lucas work together to help Victoria and Lilly, but the girls can’t shake an odd habit of constantly talking to an unknown figure named “Mama.” As time passes, it becomes more clear Mama isn’t some random imaginary friend. Instead, Mama is a powerful and evil entity, who followed Victoria and Lilly from the woods. Mama’s surprise attack on Luke sends him to the hospital, and with Luke stuck in a coma, Annabel must protect Victoria and Lilly from Mama. But who’s the real person behind Mama, and why is she stalking 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.

The finale was a chore to sit through. So Mama, Victoria, Lilly, Annabel, and Lucas are standing at the edge of this cliff, as Mama prepares to take Victoria and Lilly away for good (or to be more blunt, kill Victoria and Lilly by jumping off the cliff with both of them). Of course, Lucas and Annabel fight to save Victoria and Lilly, but Lilly is more willing to go with Mama. But on the other hand, Victoria wants to stay with Lucas and Annabel. During a struggle, Annabel is able to protect Victoria from Mama, but a willing Lilly is taken away by Mama. After Mama wraps Lilly in this cocoon of darkness, Lilly explodes into a swarm of moths.

Yeah, this finale was too over the top and borderline ridiculous for my taste. First of all, you have this never ending tug of war between Annabel and Mama, as Annabel is trying to pull Victoria away from Mama. Lucas feels like a third wheel after Mama attacks him. And the ending with Mama turning Lilly into moths was kind of corny.

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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