Guillermo del Toro is back presenting us new horror in form of Mama. Director Andrés Muschietti has taken his 2008 short film and with the backing of del Toro brought it to big screen.
Rather than continuing the wave of bloody guts and gore horror movies, Mama is an old school ghost story; echoes of The Ring and The Grudge come to mind when watching.
Mama tells the story of two young girls who disappear in the woods after a harrowing incident involving their Mother and Father. When they are finally rescued and brought back to be looked after by their uncle, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his she’s-really-cool-and-in-a-band girlfriend (Academy Award Nominee, Jessica Chastain) the two girls may not have come back from the woods alone.
When the girls are rescued they appear and act almost demonic from spending their time out alone in the wild but they are then brought in to be nurtured and conditioned back to a normality where Uncle Lucas and Annabel (Jessica Chastain) take them in and look after them.
At the heart of the film lies an interested character development arch from Annabel. At the beginning, she is a rock-chic, in a band and loving the freedom of her life with Lucas. She is very reluctant to be a big part in the girls lives but after a ghoulish incident puts Lucas in a coma she has to step up to protect the two girls from what’s haunting them. This development is well structured throughout the film and Jessica Chastain does well to showcase this progress.
High on atmosphere, the scares will make you jump as you scoff down your popcorn but they don’t tend to be the most imaginative ways of producing scares, needless to say they do work well though. Its downfall seeps through though with the ghost’s story seeming rather messy and unsure about where it’s headed. We’re built up to expect something incredibly sinister from Mama but its payoff doesn’t quite deliver and almost seems rather flat.
The ingredients to an original and creepy ghost story are laid out lovingly from the get-go and proceed to live up to expectation but never really break it. Although we are inundated with typical horror film clichés, you can be more forgiving of them as it’s difficult not to include some when you’re dealing with a spooky ghost as your antagonist.
Something that could have slipped under the radar was saved by del Toro’s hand. It’s brilliant to see what could have been a let-down turn out to be rather entertaining and hold a chilling atmosphere. But part of me wishes that del Toro would just sit in the director’s chair instead to knock something incredible out of the park.