Film: "Mama"; Actors: Jessica Chastain, Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Daniel Kash, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nelisse, Director: Andres Muschietti; Rating: ** - not so terrifying.
Stretched from an exciting three-minute short film of the same name, "Mama" the feature film, is not in any way exciting. It neither has a complicated story, nor is it a very serious film. It starts off with great expectations, but does not sustain the excitement as it progresses. Nevertheless, it has its moments of weirdness and creepy visual effects.
It is set during the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2008. The film starts off with Jeff, a down and out financial businessman, murdering his business partners and his estranged wife. He then kidnaps his infant daughters, Victoria and Lilly, aged 3 and 1, with the intent of killing them and committing hara-kiri (stabbing oneself in stomach).
While driving at a break-neck speed, Jeff's car skids off the snowy path and crashes into a forested area. He and the kids soon take refuge in an abandoned house. Here, a supernatural force figure springs upon Jeff when he is about to shoot his older daughter Victoria.
Five years later, it is by chance that Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) are found alive. Only, they are now more like wild beasts that leap, hiss and crawl about on all their fours.
But attempts by their guilt-ridden uncle Lucas (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) to civilise them, incur the wrath of that which saved them from papa's gun.
This ghostly figure lingers around the kids, with the hope of becoming their "Mama".
The script unravels slowly, allowing you to accept the facts, but there is too little story to be told. The horror cliches mount and too much sloshing around in a spooky atmosphere of flickering lights, reduce the momentum. With its chilling images and precision stings "Mama" relies on those tried-but-true jump scares to keep attention from wandering. It works sometimes, but not always.
In the last twenty minutes, the film is at its weakest - not a good thing for any movie, but too often the case with horror films. Ironically, the climax feels both rushed and sluggish. Nearly devoid of tension, it unspools in a long-drawn-out and unproductive mode, although the scenes leading up to the finale advance the narrative in short, perfunctory bursts. Annabel's emotional connection with the children lends some buoyancy to the final sequence.
With preference of suggestion over gore, some striking monochromatic visuals, effective camera work and brilliant performances by Chaistan and child actors Megan and Isabelle, director Muschietti keeps concern about the discrepancies in the story and logical hiccups at bay for a while.
Coming from the stable of director Guillermo Del Toro, "Mama" is a good-looking motion picture that accentuates style over story. Unfortunately, it is the overexploitation of the supernatural motivation in the resolution that flaws the film.
Watch it if you have nothing much to do.