Mama – 2/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

mamaMama – 2/5 – This is a review for a film that was released a year ago.  This movie would be one consider a horror/thriller.  A movie that is defined as with these themes has to be able to combine the two elements and makes something that is unique and fun to experience.  When it comes to Mama, for a good 2/3rds of this film, the horror/thriller aspects of built nicely.  What happens after the 2/3rds mark is something that film tries to avoid, but happens every once in a while.  For any film fan knows this, there are times when an ending sinks a film.  This is what happens to Mama; a film with a great buildup that falls terribly flat in the end.

Premise: Annabel and Lucas are faced with raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years.  What they come to find that what they wish to give, has already been given to them, but will they be able to bring these kids back into society or die trying?

This movie is built upon the effectiveness of their main two children actresses.   The young actresses in these roles are Megan Charpentier as Victoria and Isabelle Nelisse as Lilly.  As the sisters in this film, they do a great job in creating individuals that are distinct, unique, but downright creepy little girls with unusual behavior.  A lot of this complexity is drawn about when they are found and must live in modern society.  Here, you see how there isolation has changed them; both physically and mentally.  You see how they both are enraptured by social structured enviorments, but also have a kindling to their ‘old ways’ with their lives in the wood.  This confliction helps creates fragility, as well as that innocent bond felt between the sisters.  It is riveting to see this dynamic evolve throughout the film.  It is all very awkward, upfront, but always believable when seeing the girls on screen.  Opposite these child actresses, you also have:

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Uncle Lucas

Jessica Chastain as Annabel (Lucas girlfriend)

Daniel Kash as Dr. Dreyfuss

There are a few others within this film, but they aren’t as important as these three.  All of these characters have a personal function that shows through their interactions with the children.  As either the caretakers or doctor watching the kids; the actors give a complex that reflects both ‘adulthood’ and ‘victims’ for the film.  Each of these three gives good worth to their characters, but nothing more than that.  They are important figures, but left aside is any semblance of acting.  They all provided some kind of cliché ploy for a ‘situational’ scare.  At times, it works to generate some kind of attachment, but the repetitive use of the same reactions makes you find these characters wooden.

The direction of this film takes a lot of homage from traditional horror styled films.  What you see is that the film flows within a very subtle pace; building upon the odd children and how they survived in the woods.  In doing this, it use a structure that focuses on three things:

1.) A basic premise

2.) A standard collective of tactical scary scenes

3.) and culmination with a confrontation of the paranormal/evil entity

For 2/3rds of this film (as mentioned early) the usage of the traditional horror elements focused around these three standards helps create a film that builds upon the moments in an astute but efficient way.  In the beginning, the film introduces us to the incident that leads to the abandonment of the two girls.   After this quick prologue; we fast forward five years later.  Here, their Uncle Lucas has been looking for any signs of the girls.  Eventually they are found in a cabin.  After we have a ‘homecoming’ of sorts, we start to see some strangeness to these girls, as the ‘situational’ horror starts to begin.   Here, you see how this style is used and how it is employed to provide some ‘scares’ for the audience.  From here, we see how the Uncle tries to have the girls assimilated back into society.  The film then begins to travel down a road that is a mixture of horror and thriller.  A lot of the scares are subtle, but never seem overtly abused for effect.  The one negative thing to say about the scares is that they are very predictable, even if they are intensive and focused.  The one thing that negates the predictable nature is the secondary tone created from the ‘creepy kids’.  That helps create that effect that mixes both horror and thriller.  Through all the situations that happen (scary and intense) you start to get a glimpse into the whole idea of this ‘mama’ character, as it keeps ‘pulsing’ in the children’s lives.  As the curiosity peaks, everyone (from the girlfriend to the doctor) want to know what or who ‘mama’ is.  This is when the film begins to turn in tone and direction; as the film focus on investigative elements, leading to an ‘attempt to define’ the paranormal situation.  As mentioned above (and I’ll repeat again) the first 2/3rds of the film is a great intricate web of mystery and horror, pushing through scenes that generate a thrilling complex and eerie perspective.  Once the film start’s to add some defines in its final act, the whole buildup goes down the drain very fast.  A lot of things are just thrown to the waste side, throwing out any creepiness out the window as well as there is a forceful attempt to add a define purpose to the whole ‘mama’ character and why she wants these children.  The film basically flips to a drama, trying to give a more purposeful but deeper meaning, when it doesn’t need it.  What also happens is addition of inclusive plot threads that aren’t needed.  Once the reveal of the entity comes forth, it is all for not.  It’s counter balances the standards originally introduces; basically a mockery of the whole film’s premise.  The climax of the film is just a confine that is dumfounded and undefined, wasting both the themes and characters.  As the film comes to an end, you come to realize that this film is one that’s cursed by its own final act.

The visuals of the film are one of the strong aspects that are part of Mama.  With the creation of the wooden forest, the house and general ‘darkly’ scenes, you get a sense of this world that is created for these kids and ‘Mama’.  You see that there is this entrapment that follows those who come in contact with the kids.  With this being a horror movie, visuals are very important.  You also see as the use of ‘traditional’ scares (for the most part) is vivid through a mixture of environment, actual props and CGI.  This helps add to that entrapped feeling.  The score of the film is another great aspect of the film, helping add to that tension and feeling to the visuals of the film.

Overall, Mama is a film that is pretty much ruined by its ending.  There’s great build-up, intriguing character s and a mysterious lore.  It all goes for not because of the terrible direction and lame climax.  If you’re a fan that likes horror films, you can give this one a chance.  If I were to give you some advice, you’ll just feel disappointed by the end.

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