For my first horror movie review, I decided none would be more fitting than Mama. After all, being a new mom myself, I might be able to gain a new perspective on this intense horror from Guillermo Del Toro.
Mama is about two young girls who are left abandoned at a young age in a remote cabin. Their uncle, played by Game Of Thrones Nicolaj Coster-Waldau as Lucas, has been on an endless search for them for years and when the girls are finally found, he brings them into his home. However, there’s much hesitation from his girlfriend Annabel, played by Jessica Chastain. The girls are wild and feral with deep psychological issues and Lucas and Annabel’s relationship is brought under strain as Annabel reluctantly takes on the role of guardian. Eventually, Annabel discovers what was taking care of them for so long in the cabin.
Mama manages to focus on not only the paranormal horror aspect but also the psychological horror that comes with being thrust into a situation we feel totally unprepared for. It focuses on the mother-child bond, even when that bond is purely emotional and not biological. Annabel is cautious and resentful at having to take care of the children but we see all this slowly change as she realizes she has to protect them from an unknown force she doesn’t understand. At first, the audience feels as if she’s protecting them purely because she doesn’t want to disappoint Lucas. However, by the end in the intense showdown between Mama and Annabel, we see a battle between maternal bonds and the power a mother can have on her child.
Mama herself is a terrifying creation thanks to the amazing actor Javier Botet.
His name may not be familiar but if you’ve seen Rec, his body definitely is. Born with Marfan syndrome which elongates limbs in the body, Mama seems CGI due to how unreal and otherworldly she actually looks. However, the only CGI used was in Mama’s hair. The glimpses we see of her in the beginning are terrifying and by the time her face is revealed, the viewer is horrified and questions how protective this supposedly “maternal” figure was. Mama blurs the line between protective and simply possessive and we fear not only for the girls but for Lucas and Annabel as well. Although some audiences complained about the lack of screen-time for Lucas, Del Toro meant for this film to be focused on one thing and this film isn’t called Papa for a reason.
As for critiques, the girls have an aunt that is fighting over custody with Lucas and Annabel. She pops up at times to remind us that she wants the girls but she seems like an annoyance and not a real threat at all. Overall, I think her character could have been left out of the film entirely as I don’t think she contributed much to the storyline. I also feel Mama’s back story felt rushed at the last half of the film. We learn why Mama is still roaming the cabin and why she attaches herself to children and by the end, it’s a rush for Annabel to appease the spirit which ends up anticlimactic (although very touching and depressing).
Mama is a great horror film that doesn’t offer cheap jump scares save for a few that are genuinely well shot and terrifying. Between the amazing physical performance of Javier Botet and the emotional performance of Jessica Chastain, this is a psychological and intense horror that will make you want to sleep with the lights on. Just make sure you hug your mom first.