Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Annabel (Jessica Chastain) are forced into the challenge of raising a pair of orphaned nieces left alone in a forest for 5 years after Lucas’s brother, Jeffrey, committed suicide in mysterious circumstances. The two girls, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), have been out there so long, they turned feral. More than a tinge of the supernatural is introduced when the adult guardians discover the girls have a strange presence in the lives they refer to as “Mama”.
Horror maestro, Guillermo del Toro, lends his name to this picture (as an executive producer) to give it some credence above other low budget fare. So whilst it may be Andrés Muschietti’s film it fits into the brand of cinema Del Toro is known for delivering, often involving ghostly goings-on and centred on troubled kiddies.
For a good duration of its running time Mama exists largely off-screen or appearing at the edge of the frame allowing suspense and tension to bubble away. Yet the script itself is often messy and goes to show that expanding a feature-length movie from a short can be perilous. If anything, Mama could do with losing a subplot or two.
Game of Thrones star Coster-Waldau is woefully underused (he plays both brothers) and is missing-in-action for most of the film’s running time. Jessica Chastain, a critics’ darling for a while now, looks out of her depth in a horror movie, even if disguised with black hair and matching eye-liner.
By the time we see the mysterious “Mama”, the whole endeavour has become rather clichéd, especially, regarding her relationship to the family. Credit, however, is due to the CGI team for crafting a well-designed horror ghoul.
Mama does have a well-wrought atmosphere and plenty of creepy moments, but its poor final act completely throws it all away with a CGI-heavy, déjà vu ending that ruins a solid enough build-up.
Mark has awarded Mama two Torches of Truth