Mama Review: Little Girls Are F*cking Creepy

MV5BMTM5MjIwNDAwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQyOTY0OA@@._V1._SY317_Actually, Creepy doesn’t begin to cover it.  More like Disturbing, or Terrifying, or OMG OMG KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, just having flashbacks.  I imagine this is the closest a movie can come to giving me PTSD, but if not I’m scared to see what is…   Let’s back up though.  Some of you might remember from my review of last year’s Sinister that I am not a fan of scary movies.  The feeling of being terrified for 90 minutes and leaving the theater feeling jumpy and paranoid for the next 48 hours just doesn’t really do it for me.  That being said, I acknowledge when a movie sets out to do something and does it extremely well.  Ted set out to be incredibly funny, and it did so with aplomb.  Mama sets out to scare the shit out of people, and in my case I can honestly say that it succeeded with flying colors (in the metaphorical sense that is).  While it is poorly written and features and incredibly unnecessarily crappy ending, Mama is probably the most effectively frightening movies I’ve seen in years.

The Plot:

Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?

THAT'S what we're adopting?  On second thought... *runs away screaming*

THAT’S what we’re adopting? On second thought… *runs away screaming*

I’d like to mention one aspect of the plot that bothered me throughout the entire movie.  Here you have two girls who have been living on their own during their formative years in an empty cabin in the middle of the woods.  These girls are obviously unstable and in need of intensive, professional care, but what does the psychiatrist do?  He puts them in the hands of their Uncle Luke (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and his punk-rocker girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain); two people who have no experience in either taking care of a child or psychiatric care.  Not only that, but when Lucas takes a tumble down the stairs and lands himself in the hospital, you keep these two violently disturbed girls under the charge the girlfriend who is quite open about her dislike for children…  Even Jodie Foster at this point is like WTF guys?!

The Players:

Jessica went through her goth phase a bit later in life than most

Jessica went through her goth phase a bit later in life than most

Jessica Chastain is certainly a busy woman.  Between this, Zero Dark Thirty and the Broadway play she is currently starring in, perhaps its possible that she didn’t have enough  time to read every script she signed up for.  If she had, she might have left it someone more suited to such a clumsily written part, like Katie Holmes or any other talent-less twenty-something with a pretty face.  To be clear, I really do like Chastain but as hard as she tries she just can’t quite make Annabel feel like anything more than a slightly above average horror protagonist.  I did start liking her once she started to bond more with Victoria (Megan Charpenier), but most of her scenes before that just left me thinking “We get it, your personality is based on the fact that you play bass in a band”.

Hell hath no fury like Mama

Hell hath no fury like Mama

Coster-Waldau also has a soft spot in my heart along with everyone else who has ever appeared in an episode of Game of Thrones, but Lucas really isn’t given much development at all.  Most annoyingly, we know that he has a very strong desire to take care of his nieces but we never find out anything about his relationship with his brother that adds any sort of depth to that desire.  On top of that, for some reason the decision was made to have him also play his brother, Jeffrey, who’s reasons for killing his wife and kidnapping his daughters are never explained beyond “Shit, the economy is tanking, guess I better murder my entire family”.

If this demonoid was under my bed, I wouldn't be able to sleep either

If this demonoid was under my bed, I wouldn’t be able to sleep either

Finally we have the two girls themselves, Victoria (Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabella Nelisse).  I’m really, really hoping that the majority of their crawling scenes were done with the use of CGI, because of those little girls were seriously capable of moving like that I might have to start to learn how to sleep with my eyes wide open.  Victoria as the eldest is at least able to talk and eventually shifts sides from Team Mama to Team Annabel, but Lilly remains the demonic little animal that she was when they first found her.  I’ve got to hand it to the two little actresses for melding so well into the Del Toro vibe of the film, but that being said I do not envy their real life parents trying to sleep at night after watching their daughters in this.

The Writing:

Finally, we have proof of the existence of Crab People

Finally, we have proof of the existence of Crab People

Aside from my issues with the ending that I’ll leave out to avoid spoilers, the writing was by far my biggest issue with the movie.  The acting is fine, the story is nothing special but at least capable, and director Andres Muschietti actually does a fairly good job of building the scary tone that makes the horror aspect of the film so effective.  The writing, however, definitely feels like what it is; a script written by two Argentinian writers and then translated into English by an american writer (Neil Cross).  It even occasionally reminded me of Troll 2, which was far worse of course but still contained a lot of phrases that felt like the person speaking them knew English as a second language.  This is definitely at it’s worst when an elderly record keeper is explaining what ghosts are to the girls’ psychiatrist.

The Verdict:  6.0/10  Passable

+ Intensely Scary, if you’re into that sort of thing

+ Decent acting (which improves to “great acting” if you’re going by horror standards)

- Clunky dialogue and shallow characters

- A really off-putting ending that just didn’t need to happen like it did

Critical Consensus: 

Rotten Tomatoes: 65%

IMDb: 6.4/10

Metacritic: 57/100

Other Reviews:

Wylie Writes: “Enjoyed it through and through”

CinemaWolf: B+

Mercifully Short Reviews: 7/10

Fogs’ Movie Reviews: C+

Black Sheep Reviews: 3.5/5

The Focused Filmographer: 3/5

Fast Film Reviews: 2.5/5

Cinematic Katzenjammer: 4/10

On the Screen Reviews:  “A Cheap Del Toro Knockoff”

Average: 5.9/10 – Passable

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About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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24 Responses to Mama Review: Little Girls Are F*cking Creepy

  1. Emma says:

    I saw the trailer for it when I went to see Zero Dark Thirty – will give it a miss as these type of films tend to stay on my mind – but the girl is blimming freaky.

  2. Tippi says:

    I agree with all your points about the weak plot/writing. Chastain played the bonding moments well, but the “punk rock” persona was so thin I rolled my eyes every time she started playing the bass. And the lack of development for Lucas, cheap plot maneuvering to get custody.. spot on! The short film it’s based on is very creepy and yes, intriguing, but they just didn’t know how to turn that into a story.

    • r361n4 says:

      Glad we’re on the same page. I’m going to give Coster-Waldau another shot here soon with Headhunters from last year, and by the sound of it that will redeem him quite nicely

  3. “Even Jodie Foster at this point is like WTF guys?!” Nell jokes? Awesome! :D

    Totally agree with you here. The movie had some moments (I’m even less harsh on Chastain) and the girls were really creepy. But that end just didnt sit welll with me either. :(

  4. wordschat says:

    I liked it quite a lot while a friend thought it lame. Extremes. The girls were great. Check out my review. Nice examination if it.

  5. I’m not a fan of scary movies either to be honest for the very same reason as you but I’m quite intrigued to see this. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who will go with me to see horror films and I’m not sure I can hack it on my own without someone to grab onto.

    • r361n4 says:

      Lol, I’m in the same boat. My girlfriend refuses to go see scary movies but my pact to see every movie in 2013 means I’ve got to see a lot of them. Luckily I wasn’t completely alone in the theater this time like I was in Sinister

  6. Ryan says:

    Have still yet to see this one (my local theater didn’t get it) but all the reviews seem to be about the same. Great review man.

  7. OMG OMG KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Haha that really made me laugh ahaha xD

  8. I can’t disagree with your thoughts on Goth Chastain. ha.

    Good review. it really was creepy. and everytime that girl laughed…oh man!

  9. Mark Hobin says:

    I compleetly agree with you on this, but I couldn’t give it pass. This film just felt so unnecessary to me.

    Thanks for linking to my review. I really appreciate when you do that. I know I shouldn’t expect it, but when it didn’t happen for Gangster Squad, I felt a slight tinge of disappointment. LOL

    • r361n4 says:

      Wait, seriously? I always search my email for reviews from the people I follow, yours didn’t pop up for some reason so I assumed you hadn’t seen it. rectifying that now :D

  10. I love what you said about this being the most effectively frightening movie you’ve seen in years, despite major flaws. I had written this off as one I don’t want to see, but now I’m not so sure.

    • r361n4 says:

      Honestly, it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for great characters and a cohesive plot, you probably won’t like it but if you’re looking for straight up scares I personally think it easily delivers on that front. My advice is still to see it with someone you know though, lol

  11. Pingback: January Wrap-Up: 1 Down, 11 To Go | Rorschach Reviews

  12. The Vern says:

    Thank you for posting my review to this movie. I’m might be jaded because I see tons of horror movies and they just dont scare me. There were some parts that were great but I agree with you that the dialouge was clunkyh and so where the some of the characters . Great review.

  13. Pingback: DVD Court: Jack Reacher, Mama, Safe Haven | The Cinematic Katzenjammer

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