Review: Mama

A scene from "Mama"

Director Andrés Muschietti delivers an unforgettable and terrifying debut feature with Mama. Sisters Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) go missing the same day their mother is murdered. Their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) have spent five years searching for them, finally finding them in an abandoned cabin. The girls are almost completely feral, with only Victoria still able to speak. She talks about Mama, the person who helped them survive. Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) believes that Mama is another personality that Victoria has created, but Annabel begins to think something evil has been watching over the girls after they move them into their home.

January is frequently referred to as the dumping ground for bad films but this thinking couldn’t be more incorrect when it comes to Mama. With high caliber actors like Jessica Chastain and outstanding performances from young leads Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse, Mama quickly stands out as one of the best horror films in years.

There are shades of The Woman In Black here with similar atmospheres and underlying themes, but the comparisons end there. Jessica Chastain goes into a new territory here, playing a tattooed bass player who initially has reservations about becoming instant parents, especially for two children who suffer from so many problems. Her character’s reactions to situations adds an extra dose of realism to a picture that spends a lot of time in the realm of the supernatural.

The true standout performances come from Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse. They are incredibly frightening at moments, leaping and growling after being forced to survive in the wilderness for five years, while still being able to be soft and sweet when they need to be. There are times when your eyes will fill with tears as Annabel interacts with Victoria and Lilly, and it’s been too long since a frightening film actually had moving performances in it. Don’t expect a bloody slasher spectacle here. This is an intelligent supernatural thriller, featuring outstanding characters from even more amazing actors.

The story also manages to be unpredictable, leaving viewers wondering where things will end up. Although things may seem simple, some very smart twists and turns lead to unexpected areas and an emotional finale. It’s hard to believe that a film so scary could actually be full of so many touching moments, but you may need to dry your eyes on more than one occasion. That’s assuming you can handle some of the heart stopping scares first. This reviewer isn’t easily frightened any longer, but Mama managed to have me jumping in my seat a number of times. If you’re looking to have your date clutching onto you for the evening, make sure this film is a part of your night out.

Is Mama Opening Weekend Worthy?

Absolutely. In fact, get your tickets right now! This is a touching and frightening horror tale with performances that should make the Academy hand out more awards for films from darker genres. If fear, and Jessica Chastain as a punk rocker, seem like something you’d love, don’t miss out on this one.

More About Mama

Mama Trailer

Mama Production Gallery


Raised on a healthy diet of Star Wars and every horror film on a video store shelf, Will has been watching movies since before he was able to talk. Inspired by an ever growing passion for film, and the occasional mind control experiment, Will began writing film review on his personal blog, The Film Reel. When the mind control experiments actually worked, he was able to secure a position with Toronto Film Scene. He now waits patiently in the TFS basement for October to come every year, when his love for horror films finally pays off.

2 Comments

  • Reply January 18, 2013

    danita

    I found this movie so ridiculous. It left me with more questions than answers. And I just don't get why the ghost came out of portals from the wall. This movie actually just made me really annoyed.

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