Movie Review: Mama
What We Liked
What We Didn't Like
Imagine becoming a foster parent for the first time and your task is to raise two small children who have lived isolated in an abandoned cabin for five years. And as if that isn’t challenging enough, the girls are also being haunted by a spirit that has followed them from the cabin. This is the scenario in the new horror film Mama. The story begins with disturbing events in which the girls’ father kidnaps them and takes them to a creepy cabin in the woods (also known as the perfect setting for a horror film). The father flips out and the two girls, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lily (Isabelle Nelisse), are left completely on their own to fend for themselves at the young ages of five and one. I’m not going to lie, whether you are a parent or not, the opening of this movie is very difficult to watch. Cut to five years later, and the girls are found by their uncle Lucas (their dad’s twin brother played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who never stopped looking for them. Then enter Annabel (Jessica Chastain), the rebellious rocker girlfriend of Uncle Lucas, and you have an instant dysfunctional family.
The relationship Annabel develops with her husband’s nieces is genuine and compelling. Though, reluctant at first, Annabel eventually forms a motherly bond with them and will do anything to protect Victoria and Lily. Needless to say, she is stunned when she finds out that the person the girls refer to as “Mama” is not an imaginary mother figure that the girls created during their isolation, but is in fact a real wicked and destructive spirit who gives new meaning to the word over-protective. Annabel begins to search for evidence of Mama’s life on earth and is shocked by what she finds. All of this leads up to a chilling conclusion that is not necessarily what the viewer wants, but gives us something to think about as we leave the theater.
I personally have never been so emotionally invested in a horror movie as I was in Mama. The innocence of the two girls, which remains throughout the film, is not something we are used to seeing. In my experience, the children sometimes become somewhat devilish as they are being haunted. This is not the case in Mama. Instead, the girls are sweet and lovable and even become protective of Annabel as Mama becomes increasingly jealous of their new mother figure. The situation is completely heart-wrenching, which is unlike any other horror movie that I have seen. And kudos to the amazing young actresses that played Victoria and Lilly. They do an outstanding job and hopefully will not suffer from any long-term psychological damage after having acting in such a frightening film.
Mama boasts a creative story and the film is very well done overall. Don’t misunderstand, there are still cheap horror thrills and scenes that make you jump and laugh simultaneously, but these would be missed if not present. I actually expect to be jumpy and creeped out during a horror film. I also expect the story to scare me after the fact and make me sleep with a light on. And for all of these reasons, Mama definitely does not disappoint.