Mama is a story about two young children, Victoria and Lily, whose father kills his wife and takes his children to the woods intending to kill them too. The father is soon dispatched and the girls are left in the care of a mysterious figure known only as Mama. Five years later the girls are found in a feral state and left in the care of their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain). Unfortunately Mama doesn’t want to let go of the children.
This is an uneven film. The first half is great. Mama is scary when we don’t get to see her properly and the children, especially Lily are a bit creepy too. Chastain is strong as Annabel, as we see her slowly develop a relationship with the two girls and she starts to really love them as her own. Both the children, Megan Charpentier as the more aware oldest child Victoria and Isabelle Nélisse as the more animal like Lilly, are fantastic. Not annoying like a lot of child actors.
But the film starts going downhill as soon as we fully see Mama. She was much scarier when it was just shadows and blurry images. Unfortunately she is revealed too early and just isn’t frightening, which undercuts the rest of the films scenes. There are some scenes where she is just laugh out loud funny-which is not a good reaction to your film’s big bad.
Its par for the course for horror films to have its characters do incredibly stupid things just to get some scares. For example one character-having learned the truth about Mama-decides to go alone to the abandoned cabin where the girls were found to confront Mama. This doesn’t end well and unfortunately there are plenty of characters that make other stupid decisions that really start to grate after a while.
However while this is far from a perfect film Mama does give us some good jump scares. It also provides us with a lovely emotional element. Too often horror films concentrate on the gore and the villain and forget about make their protagonists someone to cheer for instead of just being body parts for the baddie to chop up. At least with Mama it gives us characters to care about and hope they can make it as a family. Of course whether they do or not I can’t reveal here.
Although the scares wear off after the first half I do appreciate a horror film that made me care for the characters as much as this one.