Guillermo Del Toro was so enamored with the creepy vibe he got after watching a short film by Andr s Muschietti that he offered his help to Muschietti and his sister Barbara in turning it into a full length feature film. The end resulted in the recently released film starring Jessica Chastain called Mama. It’s a dark psychological horror movie that centers around two young sisters who very tragically find themselves abandoned in a cabin in the woods and left to fend for themselves for five years. When they are eventually found in a near feral state and granted custody to their uncle who never gave up searching for them, it is soon discovered that maybe they weren’t alone in the woods.
The two young sisters were protected by a mysterious ghost they refer to as Mama who follows them to their new abode living with their uncle Luke played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and his girlfriend Annabel, the always excellent Chastain. Problems arise when Mama spirals into a jealous rage and sets her sights on eliminating anyone who gets in the way of her relationship with the two sisters. They girls who are appropriately creepy and cute are portrayed by Megan Charpentier and Isabelle N lisse.
Mama’s story is eventually revealed but the toughest battle in defeating her is breaking the bond that has formed between her and the two abandoned children. The elder of the two sisters comes around first but unfortunately that just fuels Mama’s rage even more. I enjoyed the grainy camera work that was used in telling Mama’s back story, although I had hoped for a better explanation of her. Unfortunately I felt it was her story that leads to the downfall of the movie.
The Annabel character that Jessica Chastain portrays is one of the strong points of the movie. Annabel isn’t the typical mother figure nor does she pretend that these children aren’t kind of ruining the life she had planned. She is drastically different in contrast to the overprotective “Mama” and I think it was important to cast someone with Chastain’s acting ability as a lesser actress could have possibly came across as unlikable and ruined the whole dynamic of the situation.
Andr s Muschietti is a very capable director and does well in conveying the horrifying aspect that first attracted Del Toro to his short film. Throughout the film you are offered some genuinely creepy moments, great performances and imagery that inspires some of the best psychological horror scares any PG-13 horror film has offered in a while. Unfortunately the ending happened and my opinion of Mama became much bleaker. I found the last 10 minutes to be almost unbearable and well, stupid. I wish I could unsee those last few moments but since I can’t I’ll classify Mama under the category of when bad endings happen to good movies.
If you are interested in checking out the original short that Guillermo Del Toro found so compelling here it is: