MAMA (2013)

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Christopher

It is very difficult to go into this movie thinking that it might be good. It definitely wasn’t good but it was watchable. The film takes place in Virginia, which is nice for a homesick kid like me, but other than that this story really doesn’t take place in any reality that I know of. There seems to be a theme in movies I have watched recently where we the viewer are supposed to ignore common sense. In this film we are supposed to believe that the kids, who have been lost in the woods for five years, would be allowed to live with their uncle and his girlfriend. Are the kids really that cured after a week or so from being found? Why would a non-married couple that has never raised kids be suitable parents for these insane children? The hospital allows them to live in a house rent-free but how else are they supposed to fund two children?

Other than very obvious plot holes there were some creepy moments, very basic but they kept your interest. The film becomes laughable though once you begin to regularly see MAMA. She becomes increasingly less scary and just kind of goofy. Throughout this film I kept thinking about The Orphanage. Another movie that was produced by Guillermo del Toro. The Orphanage (which is a better all around movie than MAMA) has one of the worst endings I have ever seen in a movie and though MAMA is the worst, it’s still pretty bad.

Please don’t waste your time watching this. Watch The Orphanage instead, and be a little less disappointed.

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

Chris and I saw a free preview screening of Mama Tuesday night and it was surprisingly packed. Unfortunately, this was more likely due to the fact that it was free and PG-13 (therefore open to high schoolers) than the quality of the movie.

Mama suffers from something a lot of modern horror movies (that I’ve seen) seem to be suffering from: they base the scariness on less-is-more for 90% of the movie, and then at the end go crazy with CGI and it ends up looking pretty stupid. This is what happened in the theatrical cut of Paranormal Activity and happened to a certain extent to Insidious although I still liked that one (or maybe it was just Patrick Wilson that I liked). In theory, it sort of makes sense to do this: be teasing in the scariness and then at the end give a big punch, but in practice it just seems clunky and a little lazy.

I also can’t help but get caught up in illogical points in movies like this. Maybe that’s just a flaw of mine as a viewer, because obviously a movie about a ghost haunting two little girls isn’t exactly based in fact. But still. The basis of the story is that these two girls were kidnapped by their father after he murdered their mother, but before he could kill the girls, Mama (a ghost) killed the father and watched over the girls for five years. In the five years that have passed, their uncle Luke (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has spent that money that his brother presumably left him creating a vast web of search parties. They finally find the girls, now 8 and 6, and they are understandably fucked up. After being treated for 80-something days, there’s a court hearing on who should get custody: Luke and his girlfriend, Annabelle (Jessica Chastain), or the girls’ aunt on their mother’s side, Jean (Jane Moffat). It’s not clear if Jean is married, but she’s older and is definitely better off financially. As the girls’ therapist, Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) points out, Annabelle is “in a rock band” and Luke “draws pictures for a living.” (Luke’s profession is never made any clearer than this, by the way). As an unmarried couple with no children and no steady income, it’s completely clear that they should not be granted custody of the girls. Buuuuuuut Jean lives on the other side of the country, so Luke and Annabelle get custody. In what world would an unmarried couple with no steady income get custody of two profoundly disturbed children? It’s just annoying.

There’s also an unnecessary subplot involving Dr. Dreyfuss finding the remains of Mama’s baby (before Mama was a ghost), which Annabelle tries to use to help the situation, but ends up doing absolutely nothing. Also, Luke falls down the stairs and falls into a coma early on, getting him out of the picture. (Again, why would Annabelle, of no blood or even married relation to the girls, would still get custody once Luke’s in a coma, is beyond me). Then when he’s out of a coma, and is involved in the final climactic scene, Mama reaches into his chest and does something to his heart, knocking him out again until the very end of the movie. Why did he character even exist if he’s going to be unconscious for 95% of the movie? Obviously it was supposed to be female-centered, but in that case, Annabelle should have just been the girls’ aunt or something.

I hate to say it, but I’m starting to doubt Jessica Chastain a little bit. Tree of Life was a goddamned nightmare, she was good in Zero Dark Thirty but not Academy Award good, and she was pretty bad in this. Surely she can do better . . .

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