Review: MAMA (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Review: MAMA (2013)


Last year, when Guillermo del Toro helped executive produced Troy Nixey's directing debut in a supernatural chiller called DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, many horror fans were expecting an edge-of-the-seat spookfest but what they got, was a horror-movie yawner instead. This year, it's sad to say that del Toro failed to live up to his good reputation for the second time in another supernatural chiller called MAMA. Expanded by sibling filmmakers Andres and Barbara Muschietti from their 2008 short, Andres Muschietti's directing debut does bears the influence of executive producer Guillermo del Toro's trademark of graphic supernatural elements and moody visuals. Unfortunately, MAMA is a crushing bore that doesn't do much other than repeating the same scare over the course of 109-minute running time.

Like DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, the movie begins with a promising setup: a depressed father named Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) shot two business associates and his ex-wife, before kidnapping his two little daughters: Victoria (Morgan McGarry) and Lilly (Maya and Sierra Dawe), and flees with them to an unknown destination. During the getaway, he was driving too fast on a snowy highway and eventually losing control of his car. The car crashes, but all of them survives. Soon after, he takes the kids through the woods until they come to an old cabin in the middle of nowhere. Once inside, he takes out his gun to prepare a double murder-suicide. But before he is able to pull the trigger, something sinister appears from the dark and snatches him away. The two little girls are then left by themselves with only the mysterious creature as their companion.

So far, so good. But what follows next is an awfully familiar story that fails to find its proper footing ever since. Five years later, the girls, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), are now grown up to 8 and 6-year-old respectively. Both of them are gradually discovered living on their own in the cabin, and later brought to an institute where they are studied and held under intensive care by a psychiatrist named Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash). After years living remotely all by themselves, the girls are feral, frightened and limited in their language abilities. Throughout their state of isolation, they are so psychologically disturbed that they are thought to have created an imaginary female protector named "Mama".

Then one day the girls are released into the custody of their uncle, Lucas (also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his goth-rocker girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain). However, Annabel isn't a motherly type and doesn't seems to be comfortable having two children living in their house. But that's not the only problem -- apparently the girls have somehow brought along their "Mama" with them. Things get worse when Lucas is hospitalized following a mysterious fall down the stairs, and forced Annabel to be left alone with the girls. Slowly, Annabel discovers something is very wrong that the so-called "Mama" isn't an imaginary person after all.

Everything in MAMA is painfully cliched: the story is pedestrian and most of the scares are more of the same. The pace is also slow-moving, with nothing much happens and the revelatory finale is a huge disappointment -- especially when the director finally shows the full-bodied creature of "Mama". Needless to say, the creature looks too fake with its spotty special effects.

Somewhere in between, there are worthwhile camera placements by Andres Muschietti but his overall direction is a routine exercise in style but little substance. The cast does what they can with their given roles, particularly from Jessica Chastain's credible performance as Annabel.

The rest is a yawner.

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