No spoilers J
Mama starts with an investment banker on a suicide mission. He kidnaps his two daughters and brings them to the country, with intentions of completing the removal of himself and family from the dismal existence of bankruptcy, jail, and utter failure. When reaching their destination, my first thoughts were, oh no, it’s the cabin from Evil Dead. The older child can sense a presence in the cabin and is reluctant to enter but is reassured by her father. Something goes wrong with the father’s plan and the two young girls, Victoria and Lilly, are left to fend for themselves, or are they?
We are then introduced to the brother of the investment banker, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and his punk rocker girlfriend, Annabel. Five years have past, but Lucas has not given up the search for the two girls. By a stroke of luck the children are found. After some lawyer grappling with a surviving aunt from the mother’s side of the family, Lucas is awarded custody of his nieces. The two wild children go to live with Lucas and Annabel. Naturally, the presence from the cabin has come with them.
An interesting tale unfolds with a strong back-story containing its own plot twists as it is revealed through the investigation by the girl’s psychiatrist, Dr. Dreyfuss. The two young ladies play wonderfully convincing parts and I was fully engaged with their plight. The punk rocker girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain), is left with much of the duty in bringing these girls back to reality and she makes the biggest transformation in character, from non-caring punk rocker to surrogate mother of the children. However, there is another entity that claims ownership of these girls and is not going to let them be taken away so easily.
The spirit is creepy as hell – too tall, with fingers that are too long. Her long hair rises, waves, and flutters, as if by its own will. Mama is a twisted, malformed, contortionist, with a hideous face and wicked eyes, determined to keep these two children with her. The spirit’s warped sense of right and wrong makes her dangerous to all who stand in her way.
At its core, Mama is a classic ghost story, so some of the plot-points and outcomes are predictable. But that doesn’t make it any less creepy or enjoyable to fans of supernatural horror. In the last fifteen minutes, the story twists into a sudden overwhelming sadness, and no matter what the outcome, you will feel bad for all the parties involved. So, when leaving the theater, I was more melancholy rather than fearful, which to some, could ruin the overall effect of the film. Muschietti shows his love for Guillermo del Toro films with this aspect, but I can’t help thinking it may have been better to leave the audience in a fearful state instead. Despite some drawbacks, I would still recommend it to fans of supernatural horror and ghost stories.