Sheltie Watches Scary Stuff: Bring Your Daughters to the Slaughter(s)- Mama (2013)

This month I’ll be watching spooky movies I haven’t seen yet. Reviews to be posted whenever I happen to have time.

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Businessman Jeffery Desange goes a bit nuts after running a company into the ground. Killing several employees and his wife, he then goes on the run with his daughters Victoria and Lilly. He fucks that up, too, by wrecking his car and getting lost in the woods. Finding a creepy abandoned cabin, he nearly kills his daughters, but is instead dragged off by a shadowy ghost thing. Cut to five years later, Jefferey’s hipster twin brother, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) receives the news that Victoria (Megan Charpantier) and Lily (Isabelle Nélisse) have been found. Unfortunately, they’re a bit feral and spend a lot of their time being creepy and talking to an imaginary “Mama.” With the help of psychiatrist Gerald (who looks like Paul Reiser, but is actually a different guy from Aliens), Lucas manages to win custody of the girls in exchange for Gerald being able to monitor their progress. Lucas’s riot grrlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) is less than enthused. Things go pear-shaped pretty quickly, as moths start getting everywhere and “Mama” starts to seem less and less imaginary…

What I Thought:

Mama is a pretty damn good movie. Directed by Argentinian Andy Muschietti, who adapted it from a short film he did in 2008, Mama was released in 2013 and did well, snagging the #1 spot on the box office the weekend it came out. It got a major boost from Guillermo del Toro, who helped secure financing for the film, and was credited as an executive producer. Apparently the studios like del Toro enough to help him get other people’s movie’s made, but not, y’know, enough to let him direct The Hobbit.

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Anyways, the biggest strength of Mama is probably Jessica Chastain as Annabel. At the start of the film she’s hilariously un-maternal, and finds herself thrust into a Mr. Mom-type situation when circumstances force her to take care of the kids by herself. Over time she grows to care for them, and even be pretty protective. It’s a pretty neat bit of character development for an hour and 40 minute horror flick.

Mama isn’t the scariest of films (to me, at least), but it does have a pretty excellent ghost design. It’s leans heavier on dread and creepiness, rather than jump scares which is always a plus. It also has elements of being more of a dark fairy tale (the film opens with “Once upon a time…” scrawled across the screen), particularly the ending. No wonder del Toro liked it.

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True, there are some pretty cliched bits (the conniving aunt, the mental hospital escapee, ghost having unfinished business, etc.) but it’s still a well-made film with an interesting premise (what if kids raised by ghost?)

Supposedly, a sequel is in the works, sans Chastain and Muschietti (who has been busy with It parts one and two), though it doesn’t seem like there hasn’t been much chatter in the past year or two. Coincidentally, the sequel is set to be directed by the duo behind Starry Eyes, the first movie I reviewed last October.

Stray Thoughts:

The size of that archival building is absurd.

-Hey, the Slap Chop commercial! I remember that!

-Jessica Chastain went on to co-star in a del Toro directed horror flick two years later with Crimson Peak, which I liked.

-Towards the end, I was thinking, “Man, this is like something Geralt of Rivia would have to do for a sidequest.”