This horror feature started out as a short film (yay for the director). With the blessings of executive producer Guillermo del Toro, the director (and co-writer) Andrés Muschietti was able to expand upon his initial idea, and the movie opened at Number One at the US Box Office.
Great result all around, yes?
Not if you are just a member of the audience, and not invested in the success of the Muschietti family (his wife Barbara co-wrote the short film, and is listed as a producer on the feature).
The film starts promisingly enough. Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has killed his wife and a couple of co-workers in the aftermath of the financial meltdown of 2008 and is driving fast towards the woods, with his two daughters—aged 3, and 1—in the backseat. When the car crashes, he walks them towards a creepy cabin. Once inside he is preparing to shoot his older daughter in the back of the head when a creepy figure jumps forward from the shadows and takes him away.
Five years later, his brother Lucas (also played by Mr. Coster-Waldau) is still hunting for his missing family. He lives in a small apartment with his bass player girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) and just around the time that the money (to pay the men tracking his family) runs out, the girls are found.
Except these are no longer two cute innocents. They are feral creatures (the younger one doesn’t even have language skills) and it becomes clear that Lucas and Annabel will have a tough time caring for the children.
It doesn’t help that the two children keep referring to a ‘Mama’ who cared for them in the woods, all these years. It also doesn’t help that Annabel really doesn’t see herself as the child-rearing type. This is the kind of movie in which the tattooed musician actually says the words, “It’s not my job to take care of them (the children).”
But of course, because this is filmmaking at its most ‘Screenwriting 101’ it is important for Annabel to bond with the children, so that she can later genuinely begin to care about them. So Lucas is conveniently taken out of the picture by Mama.
If you are the type of person who gets a kick out of being startled by loud noises and sudden appearances of a ghoulish creature, Mama might do the trick. Because actors of the caliber of Chastain and Coster-Waldau lead the film it is not totally unwatchable. See what I did there? I used a double negative to say ‘meh.’
Final Analysis: Loud noises, questionable effects work, and a Wonderbra do not add up to an enjoyable time at the movies—not this time.
My Advice: Rent For a Good Time Call… or Cabin in the Woods instead.