Movie Review: ‘Mama’

Usually horror films fall into one of two optical categories: eyes glued to the screen with anticipation or rolling from cheesy cinematics. “Mama” falls into the first category, providing an exciting ride of emotions for the viewer. 

(From left) Jessica Chastain, Isabelle Nélisse and Megan Charpentier. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.
(From left) Jessica Chastain, Isabelle Nélisse and Megan Charpentier. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

“Mama” opens with a father frantically fleeing with his two young daughters, after he has committed multiple murders.

Their destination is an isolated cabin and the father, clearly mentally unstable, nearly murders the girls, but instead leaves them to fend for themselves.

After five years, the girls are discovered and, as would be expected, have suffered both socially and physically from their period of abandonment.

They keep referring to “mama,” who they claim has taken care of them. Their uncle and his girlfriend attempt to raise the girls, but numerous peculiarities suggest that perhaps “mama” is not just a figment of imagination, but a very real third companion.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, known from “Game of Thrones,” portrays the father, Lucas, and the uncle, Jeffrey.

He is convincing in both of his roles as a mentally unstable man and an uncle wishing to take care of his nieces.

Jessica Chastain, star of “Zero Dark Thirty,” does a great job as Annabel, Jeffrey’s girlfriend and a reluctant mother who ultimately comes to deeply care about the girls.

The two girls, the true delight of the film, are played by Megan Charpentier as Victoria and Isabella Nelisse as Lilly, each delivering an eerie and convincing performance.

Though it is Andres Muschietti’s first film, the director does an excellent job of establishing a creepy tone resulting from his reliance on subtlety.

Further, there is a masterfully-done dream sequence that provides a chilling scene from the character’s point of view that will likely be remembered by viewers for some time.

The film’s third act abandons much of the subtlety and has some characters acting ridiculously, and certainly is not as strong as the first two acts.

Despite this an a few other minor flaws, however, this is still a very good film and should be checked out.

View the trailer:

David Carty

David Carty served as a staff writer for the 2012-2013 academic year.

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