Combustible Celluloid
Get the Poster
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
Download at i-tunes Download on iTunes
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, Jane Moffat, Morgan McGarry, David Fox, Dominic Cuzzocrea, Christopher Marren, Julia Chantrey, Ray Kahnert, Diane Gordon, Matthew Edison
Written by: Andy Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti, Neil Cross
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and terror, some disturbing images and thematic elements
Running Time: 100
Date: 17/01/2013

Mama (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Mama,' You're All Crazy Now

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by newcomer Andy Muschietti, and produced by veteran Guillermo Del Toro, the new horror movie Mama knows how scary motherhood can be.

Two mothers figure into its story. The first is Annabel (current Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain), a black-haired, raccoon-eyed rock 'n' roller, who lets out a happy "whoop" when she discovers that she's not pregnant.

Her boyfriend, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is an artist who has spent five years searching for his missing brother and two nieces.

When the nieces -- Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and her younger sister Lily (Isabelle Nélisse) -- are suddenly discovered in a cabin in the woods, Annabel and Lucas find that, ready or not, they are now parents.

Annabel has a tough time, but the real trouble comes in the form of the ghost that has taken care of the two girls for all that time: a creature with silvery hair, crooked features, and bent limbs, known only as "mama."

Interestingly, neither of the two mother figures are actually the girls' flesh-and-blood mother.

Muschietti, who co-wrote the screenplay with his sister Barbara, includes several scenes of both mothers bonding, or failing to bond, with either or both of the girls.

One terrific spooky scene is shot in one, long take. Lily, framed in a door, plays in her room. As the shot progresses, it becomes chillingly apparent that her playmate is not human.

And in another touching moment, Annabel warms Lily's chilled fingers with her breath, much to Lily's amazement and delight.

But mostly Muschietti manages to turn the mothering instinct into sheer terror. The movie has quite a few genuinely spooky moments, based on warped, twisted versions of love, protection, and the physical human form itself.

Unfortunately, the filmmakers also devote an equal amount of time to more typical things: the inevitable solving of the ghost's past, an ill-tempered psychiatrist that visits from time to time, and a nasty, tightly-wound aunt that wishes to take the girls away (she could have been a third "mother" figure, but the movie doesn't give her a chance).

These outside sequences involve characters behaving stupidly, such as not one, but two, characters visiting the spooky cabin in the woods -- at night.

Moreover, the movie eventually comes to rely on special effects, rather than on characters, for its conclusion.

By the end, it's fairly clear that, rather than expanding upon a very primal and scary idea, the filmmakers simply padded it with shopworn old horror routines. A mama would not approve.

Movies Unlimtied