Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Get out your OH GEEZ IT'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU RUUUN AAAHHHH we're reviewing Mama!
Oh no Punk-rock Jessica Chastain it's right behind you!

Victoria(Megan Charpentier) and Lilly(Isabelle NĂ©lisse) were kidnapped by their dad and left to fend for themselves in the woods for 5 years. When they are discovered and taken home by their uncle Lucas(Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel(Jessica Chastain), their new guardians discover there's something already protecting them...

Hmmm it's probably a bad idea to write this review at night, right? No I'm sure it'll be OH BATMAN WHAT'S THAT BEHIND ME fine.
Kids are creepy. Kids jaggedly
spier-walking is terrifying.

I was not expecting much from Mama and boy was I scared wrong! I'm happy to discover it's a legitimately creepy, scary, and well-done horror movie! If you get nightmares from movies like these, pass it up, because Mama is creepy as all fuck. I'd like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for horror movies, but even I jumped a number of times. I'd give it an 8 out of 10 on the pants-shitting scale.

Mostly it has to do with the horror pacing. It doesn't show too much of the monster until the end, only howling glimpses, outlines, and horrific sounds here and there, until WHAM right in the third act it all goes to shit and you can kiss those new pants goodbye. And even when they do show the monster, it has a disturbing enough design and prosthetics that you're still going to want to subconsciously block out the image. It's a really well done off-putting design that falls perfectly in the uncanny valley. Anyone looking to see true creepy that still has the stomach needs to study its face.  Also, you can't count out the uber-creepy sound design.
You are now aware that Lucas is
Jaime from Game of Thrones.

It doesn't hurt either that the cinematography and shots are beautifully well done. Everything is very slow and menacing, using space and anticipation to pull of some astounding scenes.  There's one especially great long take in which the girls walk down stairs, get scared, and run back upstairs. It's a good five minute chunk and I'd love to know exactly how they planned and pulled it off.  I'd recommend watching it a second time for the shots alone.  There are also some great stylized dream sequences/flashbacks!

The only sour mark that keeps this great film from being an instant classic is the stupidity of the characters. In a horror movie, you're already expecting a certain amount of stupid for people to be curious and get into trouble, but it stretches even those limits and goes right into going-against-every-shred-of-common-sense territory.  Dr. Dreyfuss, the psychologist studying the girls, knows and fully believes what is going on, yet he still goes out into the woods, at night, alone, to the haunted house to talk to the monster, without telling anyone what he's doing. You are asking for it mister!  And some of the monster logic may be questionable after the fact, but it's not so bad it ruins the narrative.

I'm surprised this whole post wasn't
just sketches of punk-rock Jessica Chastain.
Did you even see her tattoo?!
The characters' stupidity and shoddy monster logic do not bring down the overall story, which is actually quite entertaining. I like much it feels like a very messed-up fairy tale.  Mostly it comes down to Annabel, who barely knows how to interact with people and doesn't want kids at all, so of course it comes to her to be the one to raise the girls and care for them the most. It's a great dynamic and a great character arc. Also, how great is it that the female characters outnumber the male actors, get more screen time, and have a greater impact on the story? And that they're all strong female characters without someone going, "woah woah you're female AND strong?" Also also, I try my damndest not to judge the movie based on the aesthetics of the pretty actors and actresses but I did not know how much I needed a punk-rock Jessica Chastain with an awesome octopus arm tattoo. Oooof ugh mmm yes I'll take more of that please.

Mama is a very scary, creepy and incredibly well doen horror movie. In the doldrums of January before anything good comes out, I suggest you give Mama a try!

THE GOOD: Very creepy, actually scary, great cinematography  great characters, tons of strong female characters, nice fucked-up fairy book story, Jessica Chastain as a punk rocker.

THE BAD: some of the characters are stupid, might be too scary for some, some of the monster logic is iffy.

THE VERDICT: $$$$ See it! It's a great horror movie that you should check out, unless you scare too easily, then go see something kidsy instead.

MOVIES LIKE IT: Pan's Labyrinth, Hanna, Insidious

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: There's a shot of the hallway and the kids' room. Annabel is walking around the hallway, while Lilly is in her room playing with...someone. It's a great bit of creepy tension.


  1. Very well written and reviewed. I really enjoyed the movie despite the stupid plot holes.

  2. Thanks! Yeah, it's surprisingly enjoyable. And there is a bit of shoddy logic here and there.