Movie Reviews

TV Addict

DVD Extras

Ill-Literate (Book Reviews)

Listen, Hear (Music)

FilmStarrr (Celebrity Interviews)

Stuf ... (Product Reviews)

...and Nonsense (Site News)


Hit me up, yo! (Contact)




Mama is the second PG-13-rated horror movie produced by the remarkable filmmaker, Guillermo Del Toro.  Del Toro, who knows a thing or three about whatís scary, presented 2010ís Donít Be Afraid of the Dark, an effective remake of the 1970s made-for-TV creepfest.  That film centered around a little girl as its protagonist, waging a war against things that go bump in the night.  With Mama, our two heroines are again small girls, but instead of running from those nocturnal frights, they welcome them with open arms.

Daddyís lost his mind. A psychotic breakdown sees the end of the happy life of Victoria and Lilly as they knew it.  Victoria is a bespectacled grade-schooler and baby sister Lilly, a mere toddler.  Trusting in their father even as his flight from a murderous rampage results in a car crash that strands them in snowy woods; a deserted cabin provides a safety and shelter neither child could expect.  A mist, a shadow, a will oí the wisp travels through the house and saves the children from their parentís desperate act.  The sisters are lost and alone, but find help from that kindly spectre.  While they make a home of sorts in the cabin, living on the cherries and other offerings of the forest provided by their caring host, their uncle Lucas, a ringer for his lost brother, has never given up the search for his family.  Luckily, neither had some of the local townsfolk who spot the cabin and find the two small, filthy creatures that vaguely resemble the missing sisters inside.  Victoria and Lillyís long-awaited homecoming is not without complications. The siblings are more like animals - snarling, feral and frightened - than little girls.  Victoria has the benefit of some memories of civilisation and language, but Lilly who was barely out of infancy when they were lost is almost completely disconnected from human behaviour. She prefers to crawl on all fours and sleep on the floor, preferably under her sisterís bed, surrounded by loose branches and leaves.  Still Lucas wonít give up on his nieces and brings them into the home he shares with Annabel, his tattoo-covered, bemused but steadfast girlfriend.  What the family doesnít know is that when the girls came out of the forest, they didnít come alone; nor is their unseen new houseguest about to abandon her beloved charges.

Iím sensing a theme.  In another Del Toro-produced scarer, El Orfanato, the protagonist was a woman who was raised in an orphanage and grew up to endure the mysterious loss of her own child.  In Donít Be Afraid of the Dark, our wee heroine is dumped by her uncaring biological mother and forms a bond with her fatherís girlfriend; the only person who believes her stories of dangerous, teeth-stealing little people.  Here, as in that film, the male parent is sidelined and his significant other reluctantly yet wholeheartedly takes on the role of mommy.  Itís lovely sentiment, but in Mama weíre faced with a battle of the moms as the girlsí initial adoptive parent, an embittered spirit who lost her own child over a century before doesnít take well to her new babiesí growing affection for their flesh and blood caretakers.  Entering the house through cracks in the windows and walls, the ghost, called ďMamaĒ by the girls, keeps an eye on her charges and comforts them as they become accustomed to their new surroundings, continuing to play with and lead the children on outdoor jaunts. 

The situation around the house is already skittish with the feral kids jumping out of corners and silently crawling across floors when the grown-ups sense an extra presence moving around.  One parentís discovery of Mama leads to a painful result while the other must single-handedly face the shape-shifting spectre that wonít be happy until she owns the girls, body and soul. ďMamaĒ herself is a smoky-black CGI creation whose various shape-shifts can be alternately creepy as she morphs into the walls and floorboards as a tentacled fiend, or ridiculous, as when itís just her mop of long black hair chasing Annabel across the living room like something out of the gag reel from the Japanese horror film, The Ring.  At her fiercest, Mamaís strange face resembles a female version of Edvard Munchís The Scream, or like a Modigliani when being gentle with the girls.  Mama never looks all that real, which takes away some of the threat.  Most of the movieís frights are of the pop-up variety, with the occasional need to yell ďdonít look in the closetĒ at the screen. 

Director Andres Muschietti creates a great bleak atmosphere, full of wintery grays and whites and the monochromes of the dueling mothers, with the charcoal-coloured ghost doing battle against Jessica Chastain in a brunette boy-cropped wig and all black wardrobe.  Young Lilly is played by the wide-eyed Isabelle Nťlisse, who scoots around on all fours with unnerving ease more like a monkey than kindergartener.  Watching her poke her head out of various hiding places like a skittish squirrel and growl like a rabid puppy, she sells the feral kid act terrifically and is great fun to watch.  As with Donít Be Afraid of the Dark, the males in the film are basically useless, which is a drag as our ersatz father figure is played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, a.k.a. Game of Thronesí Jamie Lannister.  Itís weird to see him in one romantic scene, macking on someone who doesnít remotely look like his sister.  The ladies are made to fight it out for the fate of the girls and itís only by appealing to the instincts that havenít changed throughout the ghostís unfortunate existence that the sisters have any chance to survive.  Or not.  One might have to think poetically about the movieís ending to appreciate it; itís just odd and mightíve come across better on paper than watching in unfold on film.  

Weird resolution aside, Mama isnít groundbreaking or particularly memorable, but as January horror releases go, itís entertaining enough.  After all, mothers can be very scary.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

January 18th, 2013





Follow TheDivaReview on Twitter






© 2006-2022 The Diva Review.com





Stills Courtesy of  Universal Pictures



Do Your Bit for


Donít hesitate,

just donate.