Mama is this week’s new horror film produced by Guillermo Del Toro (The Hobbit) and directed by Andres Muschietti starring recent Golden Globe winner Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones). This mildly creepy film with its unrealistic looking CGI ghost tells a clichéd story of a former mental asylum patient forced to commit suicide because society does not allow her to be with her infant child. Her spirit then haunts the living, forever searching for her missing child, until she meets a little girl named Victoria and her younger baby sister Lilly and saves them from being killed by their own suicidal father. The two little girls are then in her care for the next few years until they’re found and transferred to the care of their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain). Unbeknownst to the young couple, the little girls’ “Mama” ghost follows them home and is determined to be their sole guardian.
Trailer embedded from YouTube courtesy of mamamovie.com
Jessica Chastain looks almost unrecognizable in this film with her short haircut and edgy punk rocker look. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays dual roles as both the girls’ father and uncle. After the girls are transferred into the care of Lucas and Annabel, they are routinely monitored and studied by a psychiatrist, Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) who believes that Victoria may have dissociative identity disorder (or multiple personality disorder). He further believes this to be true when Annabel tells him that she hears two different voices (one of Victoria’s and another one much deeper sounding) singing in the girls’ bedroom at night. His theory is soon disproved when he finally sees the ghostly demonic figure of Mama. All the while, Victoria gradually develops a kinship with Annabel and as a result drifts further away from Mama emotionally. This enrages Mama’s jealousy and the spirit becomes wrathful and hell-bent on destroying everyone involved in the girls’ lives.
The part that I find most difficult to believe is how the girls can become animalistic in nature during those years spent in abandonment. After all, they are raised by a human ghost, and not by an animal. Not being able to speak human language for a few years should not lead to a complete loss of vocabulary for Victoria who seems to be a very articulate child before being raised by Mama. However, the biggest drawback to this film is the CGI effect of Mama. It looks artificial and very computer generated and therefore not very scary when looking at it closely. The production team should have opted for a more realistic or even wax-like approach to the creation of Mama. That would have been a lot more scarier. The film is hampered by a clichéd storyline that’s been seen before in films of this genre. It does offer a few scares here and there, but nothing that will make it difficult for you to sleep at night without your lights on. Despite the poor use of CGI, this movie does however redeem itself with very good acting by Jessica Chastain and the two little girls (Megan Charpentier as Victoria and Isabelle Nelisse as Lilly). Another mediocre horror movie that offers nothing spectacular on the big screen – save it for a rental.