Mama (2013)

Posted: November 8, 2013 in Drama, horror
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mama

Lucas (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) is the uncle of two nieces, the older one, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and the younger, Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) have been abandoned in a cabin for five years.  The girls get psychological help from Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) and a battle for custody begins, between Lucas and the girls aunt Jean. (Jane Moffat) Lucas us unmarried, and his girlfriend, Anabel (Jessica Chastain) plays bass.  Remarkably, Lucas and Anabel gain custody of the girls, and Dr. Dreyfuss continues his treatment of the girls.  The doctor finds out from Victoria that a woman named Mama helped the girls survive during their five year ordeal, but the psychologist thinks that Mama was a coping mechanism.

Meanwhile Lucas is hospitalized after falling down the stairs, and that leaves Anabel alone in the house with the girls.  Then Anabel starts hearing noises in the house.  Is Mama a coping mechanism for two abandoned children? Or something more sinister?

The premise of this movie starts out a little shaky, young children abandoned in a cabin for five years.  Kids abandoned for five years would be dead, and there are standard horror conventions, spooky cabin, suburban house, strange noises,  and the movie seems to telegraph its punches, I knew when the horror was coming and that made it less  scary.  But the story held my interest, at least until the reveal, partially because children telling a scary story is always more scary than adults telling a scary story.  The ending is somewhat corny, but overall, it was a pretty good movie.

What made me like this movie so much?  Jessica Chastain was excellent in in a really different role for her, she was a rock n’ roll chick in this film, complete with tats, very different from Zero Dark Thirty or  The Debt. Yet, gradually when she meets these girls, she becomes incredibly materialistic, and seeks to protect these girls from whatever is bothering them.  The transformation was very believable. The little girls are incredibly creepy, especially the younger one, and that adds to the suspense.  Daniel Kash kept me guessing as the psychologist, it was a really interesting performance.  So here is a case where strong performances overcome a somewhat weak and predictable story.

Mama:  Not the mother of all horror movies, but pretty good.

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