Thursday 28 February 2013

Dark Review - Mama

Dark Review Image

Mama Review

By Casey Douglass

Mama Film Poster Image
 Image ©Universal Pictures

If you go down to the woods today, you’ll be sure to find a big surprise. Two kids left in a scabby old hut and a ghost with wonky eyes.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Mama is the story of two young girls who are abandoned in a dingy cabin in a typically bleak looking forest. In typical horror fashion, they aren’t alone, but in this case, the cranky spirit actually cares for and looks after them. This is fine until five years later, their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) adopt them and move into a new home under the supervision of Dr Gerald Dreyfuss who is in charge of seeing that the now quite feral girls are looked after properly and are in the best environment. The bad thing for pretty much everyone involved is that the spirit, called Mama, moves in with them.

I felt in some ways, that it was very much a film of two halves. The first half was more subtle, with some really good sleight-of-hand scares. A great example of this is a scene in which the two sisters are playing in their room framed through an open doorway. The camera changes to what Annabel is doing and then back to the sisters. You can see one still playing but it isn’t until the other walks across the hallway behind Annabel that you realise that Mama is playing with the other one. It was very effective and happened a number of times in different ways.

The latter part of the film fell prey to the usual cinematic horror mistake of showing too much of the monster. Mama was still suitably otherworldly and strange looking, but after prolonged exposure to her, you began to see how the CGI just wasn’t that good in places. There were also some scenes that bordered on the comical which also detracted from the thrill of watching a good horror. It was a far cry from the early part of the film which had people looking up into corners of the room and not knowing why they felt uncomfortable.

I felt Jessica Chastain stole the show with her moody rock-band-playing Annabel who was subject to a good deal of Mama’s tormenting. This is in stark contrast to another character who was purely in the film to be disliked and to become fodder for Mama. The girls were suitable creepy however and played feral children very well.

The film has a bitter-sweet ending which I felt fitted it well, and a little more insight into Mama is given which almost aroused feelings of pity for her.

I would give Mama 3.5 out of 5 if I had to rate it. It didn’t really make me jump that much, but then it wasn’t the kind of film to use cheap tricks (like sudden loud noise) to inspire scares.