20 January 2013


From the first time I saw a trailer for this movie, I was pretty intrigued, even before I saw Guillermo Del Toro attached as executive producer. I think that, in addition to the inclusion of Jessica Chastain, is really what clinched it for me, but it really looked quite good for what it is, which is not a whole lot more than your average horror movie. Or is it?

It's obvious that's all the audience was expecting. There was always a mounting level of excited whimpering followed by a huge wave of shrieking for every jump scare, even when the scare was just somebody breaking a chair. If it's not obvious, this was the first time I can remember going to see a legitimate horror movie in a theater on opening weekend. I'm not used to this much "interaction." It didn't help that a bunch of the jump scares were almost immediately followed by some subdued dialogue that I couldn't hear due to all of the screaming and laughing.

All that said, I think the audience kind of figured out what was actually going on near the end, once the nature of the big-bad was given more attention. Mama is not the mindless, ruthless killer of most slashers; she's called Mama for a reason. The movie definitely has a theme of motherhood. Jessica's character goes from someone entirely opposed to having a child at all to being a badass, protective mother figure to two girls with which she has no blood relation, and it's a believable journey. Speaking of Chastain, holy hell, casting one of the most talented actresses in film today in a role seemingly tailored to my desires is a great way to get me into the theater. Excellent job. The kids are pretty great too. Lots of effective, beautiful shots of huge, dark eyes.

Yes, it's definitely a horror movie. Mama herself may not be all that believable, but she has her moments for sure. I actually felt a little bit of tension in my chest during a couple of the scares, but really I found the most effective bits to be in the suspenseful moments, of which there are a lot. There are also some pretty great shots of the kids doing really strange things, closely followed by the realization that Mama is in the room off screen, which is always fun.

Altogether it's really quite a beautiful thing. It's no Pan's Labyrinth, but there aren't many of those.