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Guillermo del Toro, the Academy Award®-nominated writer of Pan’s Labyrinth, presents this supernatural thriller that tells the haunting tale of two little girls who disappeared into the woods the day that their parents were killed. When the young sisters are found alive in a decrepit cabin, their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones) and his girlfriend (Oscar® nominee Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty) take them in. As they try to introduce the children to a normal life, Annabel (Chastain) begins to wonder if the traumatized girls are the only guests they have welcomed into their home.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 151
- Fresh: 98
- Rotten: 53
- Average Rating: 6.0/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Rotten: The metaphorical mother-child connection becomes a mystical horror show of significant power. Sadly it comes too late to save "Mama."
Fresh: Chastain has an excellent time. And so did I, for most of the movie: It's much more suspenseful than violent, being careful not to allow us to figure out Mama too quickly.
Fresh: Screenplay contrivances aside, it's as stylish and atmospheric as modern horror gets.
Fresh: There's something eerily effective about juxtaposing childhood innocence with the violent, the supernatural, the deranged. Evil shines all the more brightly when held up against the sweet promise of youth.
A FRIGHTENING BUT FORMULAIC HORROR FLICK
"Mama" is the latest horror-thriller to carry the prestigious stamp of being presented by Guillermo del Toro - following in the tradition of such films as "The Orphanage" (2007) and "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (2010). Typically with these "del Toro presents" flicks, the award-winning auteur attempts to support a haunting tale that caught his macabre attention, while also helping to showcase the promising work of a freshman feature-film director. Stepping up to the bat this time is Andrés Muschietti, the writer/director who made the 2008 "Mama" short film that this movie is based on. Along the way, Muschietti proves himself to be both a visual and conceptual talent, and his work is definitely boosted by the fantastic performances of Jessica Chastain (in her pre-Oscar nom days) and the two child actresses (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse) who serve as its main stars. However, while the concepts, acting, and construction of the flick all show hints of great skill, the central storyline is where "Mama" ultimately fails to capitalize on its own potential. The story follows two young sisters, Victoria (Charpentier) and Lilly (Nelisse), whose tragic family history leaves them stranded in a cabin in the woods for five years' time. When their father's brother Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Wadlau) finally tracks them down, it seems like a small but bittersweet miracle; although his punk-rock girlfriend Annabel (Chastain) isn't all too thrilled with the sudden shift from starving artist to maternal figure. It doesn't help things when Annabel starts to suspect that the girls may not have been fending for themselves out there in the woods after all. Something watched over them in that cabin, and is still doing so in their new home; a ghostly entity that the girls only refer to (in secretive whispers) as "Mama." Oddly, despite the fact that Annabel's personal odyssey is at the center of this film, most of the narrative actually comes straight from the psychologist's procedural investigation into the identity of the mysterious ghostly woman the girls are calling their mother. This involves implausible luck as he discovers narratively significant yet ludicrously detailed records in dusty archives, and then simply leaves those documents lying around so the right person can find them. It's a well-worn plot device that's been used several times, but for some reason, it seems a bit more obvious here. Meanwhile, Coster-Waudau is needlessly marginalized in a corny plot turn early on in the flick, and we hardly even see much of his character soon after. But this isn't his story; it's Chastain's, and her protagonist is ultimately the one who ends up carrying this film on her shoulders. It's too bad that we never quite accept her as a punk rocker, even though she does give it her best shot with a particularly memorable performance. For me at least, this thriller is most effective in its subtle horror moments, as Muschietti deploys simple directing tricks to send chills down our spines. When he's not preoccupied with trying to make sense of the nonsensical plot or dispensing one too many special effects shots, his playful camerawork and skilled editing are masterfully engaging, and he genuinely knows how to bring the best out of the cast as well, as can be seen through Chastain's fantastic commitment to character and the remarkable believability of the two young actresses. So it's slightly disappointing when the requisite effects-driven finale rolls around, because once the digital trickery begins, it's next to impossible to care what happens since the story never attempts to take itself as serious as it did over the previous hour. But I digress. In the end, I can't deny the fact that I genuinely enjoyed "Mama," even with all its frustrating drawbacks in mind. The muted cinematography is eerily grim and macabre, the scare sequences are a ton of fun and often very unpredictable, and the haunting score by Fernando Velazquez compliments the tone of the film almost perfectly. Despite suffering from a disjointed script and a cast of mostly underdeveloped characters, this freaky horror film still delivers most of the goods when it comes to good, old-fashioned suspense and terror that'll scare you silly. Sure, it may feel somewhat contrived and formulaic at times, but if you love a well-executed fright flick that doesn't need to rely on blood and guts to keep you on the edge of your seat, "Mama" is well worth a solid rent at the very least.
Scariest thing is I wasted my money
This was not a scary movie. This was a dumb movie. Every horror cliche is used to empty effect. Seemingly smart people do stupid things — such as deciding to investigate in the woods…alone…at night. There simply was no reason for this movie to have passed through script development. I believe the critics have so fallen in love with Jessica Chastain that they see past the many flaws of the film.
I'm not the only one who thought so. My 12-year old daughter, who made me take her, was laughing at the idiocies of this movie.
Perfect story and great acting. Left me feeling very satisfied and the ending was brilliant. Just a 5 star Great Film all around.