Review: Mama

Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.


Grade: A

A brilliant brew of monstrous and maternal elements, “Mama” takes a meritorious place among the most unsettling and disturbing supernatural horror films of all time. Director Andres Muschietti’s debut film, “Mama” is an original in its own right, employing a complex monster that we can be both empathetic and terrified of.

The beautifully dark visual follows the startling story of Victoria and Lilly, two little girls who after being abandoned by their father, are forced to live isolated in a cabin in the woods. Remarkably, the girls survive for several years although becoming quite inhumane, with the absence of any social contact with humans. Finally, a tedious search for the girls, led by their uncle Lucas, reunites them with civilization. During psychiatric evaluations it becomes terrifyingly obvious that the girls were/are accompanied by a supernatural presence who they call “Mama”.

The multifaceted appearance of Mama’s character is where viewers will witness the archetypal work of “Pan’s Labyrinth” director/producer Guillermo del Toro. Impres- sive shape-shifting, self-generating limbs, wicked speed and a following of what appear to be black butterflies make every siting of Mama more horrifying than the last. Seemingly, a combination of a number of female monsters- including Medusa and The Grudge’s Kayako- Mama’s character is a long-awaited super-monster for horror fans.

The juxtaposition of Mama and Lucas’ girlfriend Annabel, played by Jessica Chastain of “The Help” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” adds an interesting element to the film as well. The transformation we see in both Annabel -a devoted bass player with no surface maternal instincts- and Mama’s affections towards the girls throughout the film is striking. The film has received mixed reactions to the seemingly disheveled script which I feel is a consequence of overly complex character development. Still, the plot, like a matryoshka doll, is ultimately satisfying when all the secrets are unveiled.

“Mama” is a paradoxical masterpiece that leaves viewers both quenched and thirsty. Not to worry though, Muschietti leaves just enough room in the ending for an anticipated sequel.