Walking into a movie with little to no expectations can be a blessing or a curse. In the case of “Mama,” it’s honestly hard to tell which it is.
“Mama” is the story of two girls, three-year-old Victoria (played by Megan Charpentier) and one-year-old Lilly (played by Isabelle Nélisse), who were abandoned in a cabin and kept alive by some strange entity “in the walls.”
Five years passed until they were discovered, but the time had turned them into savages. Finally put into their uncle’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) custody, the girls find themselves dealing with “Mama’s” other-worldly jealousy towards their new caretakers, especially their uncle’s rocker girlfriend Annabel, played by a well-disguised Oscar nominated Jessica Chastain.
In the style of Spanish executive producer Guillermo Del Toro (creator of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Orphanage”), “Mama” is as dark and creepy as should be expected from a Spanish horror film, but since it’s half Canadian (based on a 2008 short film by French-Canadian Andres Muschietti), it still has some of the cheesy jumps and surprises that the English-speaking world has come to expect.
Scary movies aren’t known for their brilliance in cinematography or acting. Even the classics, (excluding anything Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi or Vincent Price, of course) are full of cheap gimmicks and funky tricks that makes the “you’ve seen one; you’ve seen them all” saying apply. “Mama,” however, is something different.
“Mama” is that an unusual mix of the Spanish grime with the Hollywood polish. Good looking people in ugly situations, “Mama” tries to be “Pan’s Labyrinth,” (which won three Oscars in 2007) but falls short.
Sure, there’s some noticable continuity problems, (why is the sun streaming in through the window in the middle of the night?)
Besides the problems, it’s a thrilling movie for the fans of the creepy, the dark and the strange. This is gritty twist on the classic American horror story of creepy children, a ghost in the house and black goo coming out of the walls.