A mother’s love can be just so damn smothering sometimes, am I right fellow young adolescent males?
After the Stock Market crashes, Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) kills his wife and takes his two daughters somewhere unexplained to us. However, as he’s driving around in the mountains with the kiddies in the back, his car, literally, takes a sharp turn for the worse and lands the three in a remote part of the snow-infested woods. And then, lo and behold, Jeffrey finds a remote cabin these woods and decides that it’s time to not only end his life, but his kids’ lives as well. Just as he’s about to off his kids, he is all of a sudden snatched up and killed by something very, very mysterious that the girls are originally scared by, but in a strange way, embrace. Fast forward five years later, and we have Jeffrey’s identical twin brother Lucas (still played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) searching for these girls as if they were his own. Just as Lucas is about to give all sorts of hope and call it quits on the search parties, something miraculous happens: THE GIRLS ARE FOUND!! They’re pretty messed-up in the head, but being stranded, all alone, and left to fend for yourselves for a whole five years will do that to ya, so Lucas decides to take them in and raise them in a normal family they deserve. Two problems though: 1.) Lucas gal-pal (Jessica Chastain) doesn’t really take kindly to children, and 2.) that very, very mysterious being that snatched up and killed his brother all of these years before, is somehow still with those girls, AND IN THAT HOUSE!!
Okay, so yeah, maybe I went a bit overboard with that plot-synopsis, but regardless, you get the drift of this movie: Creepy girls get adopted, creepy girls start doing creepy things, innocent people get thrown into the mix, doors start closing and opening unexpectedly, heads start flying, etc., etc. You’ve all seen it done a million times before, and trust me, Mama is no exception to the rule. It’s essentially a haunted house movie where kids act strange, have an “imaginary friend”, and better yet, feature characters that have never, ever dealt with this type of paranormal activity in their lives before, EVER. Lucky for us though, none of them have the ability to work a hand-held camera (from what we know of), and even luckier for us, the movie ain’t all that bad, especially if you take into consideration just how truly lame and unoriginal the horror genre has gotten as of late.
So yeah, what makes a horror movie a good horror movie, is the scares, which this movie has plenty of because it focuses on its dark atmosphere and mood. For once, I felt like I was watching a horror movie where not only did the scares feel deserved, but they continued to have me expecting the most conventional thing to happen, and then somewhat surprise me giving me something new in front of my face. Doesn’t always happen, and once our ghost of the two-hours shows up more than a handful of times by the end, it feels like a jumping-of-the-shark, but nonetheless, the movie caught me off-guard more times than I expected. And that’s coming from somebody who isn’t the biggest horror fan, and from somebody who knows what to expect, when, and how when it comes to a horror movie. Don’t get me wrong, I can still have fun with a horror movie, but you have to make me feel like it’s worth my time and effort.
This was one of those times, and that’s partially credited to the fact that the movie also has characters worth caring about and investing your emotions in. For the most part, anyway.
Perhaps the oddest selling-point behind this movie that probably worked wonders for it back in late-January when it first came out (aka, the same time around when Chastain was up for an Oscar), was that she suddenly went all goth for this role. She has the black hair, the arm-tats, the extraneous amount of eye-liner, and heck, even plays bass in a pseudo-punk rock band. So basically, she’s supposed to be this wholesome, cutie pie, dressed down and all dolled up to look like this anarchistic bad ass that doesn’t like kids and never, ever wants to get preggo. In essence, she’s the woman of my dreams, minus all of the black make-up and hair. That I can do without.
Appearances aside, Chastain is still very good as Annabel because even though she is a bad ass that doesn’t give a flying hoot about having kids, or better yet, raising them, she still makes for a sympathetic character because her transition from “arms-length adoptive mother, to loving and caring adoptive mother”, feels real and honest, even if her main competition for these girls’ whole heart, love, and affection is the ghost of a woman who died almost hundreds and hundreds of years ago. But hey, maybe that’s why she’s one of the most exciting and promising faces we have out there working today! We need an actress like her to take material that’s conventional and by-the-numbers, and find some emotion behind it all that goes deeper than the surface-level. More of her will definitely do us all good. You can count on that fact.
And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ain’t so bad either as her more endearing boyfriend, Lucas, but he gets knocked out of the game about half-way through due to a coma, which leaves us plenty of time to care for Annabel, as well as these little girls, Victoria and Lilly. Speaking of these girls, both Megan Charpentie and Isabelle Nélisse do some solid jobs with what they had to do, which didn’t look easy since a lot of it consisted of being creepy, using their eyes to convey emotion, and just being kids, while also not being over-bearing and annoying like most kids in movies seem to come across as. While one has more lines to say than the other, both girls show that they may have a bright future ahead of themselves, if they don’t let mommy and daddy take over their lives and get an edumication. Because honestly, when you’re the centerpiece of a major, big-budget horror movie that goes #1 for two weeks in a row, do you really need to worry about learning how to write in cursive? Hell naw!!! Lord knows I didn’t want to and look how I turned out…..
Consensus: May not be a game-changer in the slightest bit, but Mama is still an effective horror flick that’s chock-full of some worthy scares, worthy characters, and best of all, a worthy story that takes some surprising turns you don’t expect it to go through with, especially with that ending.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!