Review: Mama / Cert: 15 / Director: Andres Muschietti / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier / Release Date: June 17th
Mama-mia, here we go again. The Guillermo del Toro-produced Mama reaches DVD and home release, bringing her myriad of twists and turns to a wider audience. One of the most eagerly awaited horror releases of this year, how can you resist her?
After killing their mother, a man drives out to a cabin in the woods to finish off himself and his little girls. Before he can do the deed, the titular spook Mama arrives to save the day. Mama, just killed a man. Five years later, the children are found by a belated rescue party, funded by goodhearted uncle Lucas and his rocker girlfriend Annabel. Wait, isn't that the plot of Scary Movie 5?
If you value old-fashioned shocks, atmosphere and genuine scares over torture, blood and guts, Mama should be the film for you. It's reminiscent of Hammer's The Woman in Black remake in that it rarely shows anything too nasty, but is still capable of making you jump out of your seat. The constant flow of jump scares in lesser movies (such as Sinister and its ilk) can make for a superficial experience, but Mama's impressive atmosphere and likeable characters are a cut above most. Director Andres Muschietti takes del Toro's lead, crafting a modern fairy tale which still manages to scare. Leads Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones) and Jessica Chastain (hot from Zero Dark Thirty, and looking hot in the Goth get-up) lend the film an air of classiness, while the children are surprisingly unannoying. Taut, tense and frequently spooky, it's a welcome antidote to the multitude of remakes and sequels heading to the multiplexes this year.
Unfortunately, perhaps thanks to the involvement of the great Guillermo del Toro, Mama does come with a lot of baggage and hype. There's a sense of expectation that it can't possibly live up to, especially with the story itself being less than exceptional. The feral woodland-dwelling children are the most interesting element of the tale, but that's disposed of within the first twenty minutes, after which the movie settles down into a more conventional ghost story – like a more high-end version of Darkness Falls. It's definitely worth watching and is very enjoyable, but it's best to go in with lowered expectations, disconnected from the idea that it's somehow a Guillermo del Toro movie.
On the basis of his Mama, Muschietti is a talent to watch out for. It'll be very interesting to see what he can do once cut loose from the apron strings of Mr del Toro. The mother – sorry, Mama – of all horror fairy tales? Not quite, but it's a lot of fun, all the same.