Lucas's (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) twin brother, Jeffrey (also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) went nuts after the 2008 stock market crash, killing several people at work and then returning home to murder his wife. No one ever saw Jeffrey or his two young daughters after that day, but they were presumed dead. Lucas was all like, "When you presume, you make a pres out of me and...okay that doesn't work with this one." He spent every dime he had paying bearded hillbillies (redundant, I know) to search the large, wooded area around Jeffrey's home for some signs of Jeffrey or his kids. After five long years, the searchers finally found Jeffrey's car, wrecked on the side of a hill, and a dilapidated horror movie cabin nearby. Inside, the searchers found childish drawings on the wall, along with a disgustingly large pile of cherry pits. Oh, and they found a two-headed Gollum lookalike that actually turned out to be Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse).
|"Nasty little Hobbitses" - all of their dialogue, if I had any say in it|
|"Enthusiastically" would probably be overselling it|
|I know it's the weird figure in the background that is supposed to be scary, but that kid's smile creeps me out|
As far as the acting goes in Mama, I am happy to say that the children are pretty good. Their parts aren't very articulate, so it's not a breakthrough performance for either young actress, but so much of Mama depended on them being creepy and they totally pulled it off. Megan Charpentier, being the older sister, had more to do, and she did it well. She was creepy when she needed to be, she had some good screams, and her character's progression made sense. Isabelle Nélisse was surprisingly good at playing feral. It would have been easy for a kid her age to be hilariously bad in this role, especially since her character doesn't speak in sentences. Nélisse not only managed to avoid being bad with her dialogue, she did a great job with her physical acting in this movie. That is probably a big reason why she was the creepy kid in this movie.
|It almost looks like she is pulling a corpse off the bed by the hair|
|Above: Chastain being startled by strange noises in the room. They came from your guitar, dummy.|
I have to admit that I was impressed by first-time co-writer and director Andrés Muschietti. Mama looked quite good, from just a cinematography standpoint, but Muschietti also used some clever camera tricks. My personal favorite was a scene shot down a long hallway, allowing the audience to see into the girls' bedroom and another room simultaneously; the reveal at the end of that scene --- which you can see coming a mile away --- was damn well done, and effective, even if it was predictable. I thought the general story had a good core to it; Muschietti and his brother came up with the story and screenplay, with Luther creator Neil Cross polishing it for an English-speaking audience. There are some good semi-scary moments, but what I appreciated were the bits of unexpected tension. Annabel closing the closet door (of EVIL!!!) instead of opening it, Lilly crawling silently around the house, Victoria's scary eyes in the dark --- those are the bits I will remember most about Mama.
|Is it against the rules for movie monsters to kill people wearing Misfits shirts? It should be.|
There are certainly some holes in the story, but they thankfully don't get too aggravating. Why would abandoned children eat a cherry that is rolled across the floor to them from an anonymous source? Because they are kids, and kids do dumb things. Okay, fine. Why would a character that wants to avoid pregnancy be worried enough to take a pregnancy test and then celebrate her non-pregnancy?
|Who wouldn't want a little angel like this?|
You might have noticed that I haven't spoken much about the titular monster in Mama yet. That's because she's kind of terrible. Mama is actually used very well by the director, when the audience just catches a glimpse of her here and there. Unfortunately, the last act of the movie gives us a long, hard look at Mama, and it isn't pretty.
|It's like "The Scream" came to life. Only uglier.|
Mama is a well-made PG-13 haunted house-type movie. Given the rating and the first-time direction, I'm impressed. Could it have been better? Yes --- ratchet up the pacing a bit and/or make Mama look less stupid and you have something special. But for a slightly younger horror audience, this isn't bad.