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Mama (2013) Review

Reviewed by Jesse Miller, MoreHorror.com

Anything that has a “Guillermo Del Toro Presents…” tag above a film, be it horror or otherwise, I know I can get excited about because that man just has an eye for some bizarre and refreshingly original content and he hasn’t let me down yet.

Mama comes from the twisted minds of Andrés Muschietti and Bárbara Muschietti and is the result of Guillermo Del Toro discovering their 2008 short film Mamá and being so impressed by it that he helped the duo develop a feature film around the concept with bigger toys to play with in the sandbox.

I could begin this sentence by going into the plot and setting up the storyline for you all, but Mama is one of those horror films where you are best going into blind and discovering plot details for yourself and even beginning to describe how this film opens would take away from that magic.

This film is a hell of a ride –constantly disturbing, often surprising and one of those rare and intelligent horror films that goes against what you believe is going to happen and ends up shocking you with satisfying and original scares.

I’ve seen way too many horror films now that I can see, by the film’s camera angles, that they’re gearing up for the scare and though Mama does in fact have a few of these times, it also have a few ingenious and shocking tricks up its sleeve itself that I couldn’t predict and for horror fans, I think that is most satisfying.

Occasionally Mama will come up with a few cliché elements throughout its run and you’ll be reminded about horror films such as The Ring or The Amityville Horror but Muschietti has some great ideas about horror and what works and he executes all this quite effectively enough that even though a few scares and tricks feel a little familiar at times, I just couldn’t care because I was having a fabulous time being thrilled.

Oh, and that sound design? To die for. It is brilliant and I’d strongly recommend catching Mama in the darkness of the cinema because the sounds here – from the creaking of houses, whispers, guttural noises – hell, I don’t want to ruin a thing but it is crisp, effective, very, very scary and you’ll feel like you’re really there as the horror surrounds you.

The cast here is fantastic, from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau playing twins effectively and breathing life into those two different roles, to Daniel Kash (a dead ringer for Monk’s Tony Shalhoub) playing a Doctor who is assigned to study the little girls, to Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse, who are fabulous and quite moving as Victoria and Lilly.

Jessica Chastain is the highlight here as Annabel, the reluctant guardian of the girls that grows to care for them over time, and it is her character’s arc that is wonderfully written and beautifully conveyed throughout the film, making for an engaging and moving performance.

Muschietti knows to build up suspense and effectively, when shocks give way to awkward laughter, until all hell breaks loose in a relentless and gothic climax that never lets up till the credits begin to roll.

Mama is an effective little chiller, one often frightening and haunting and featuring a storyline that is so striking that I haven’t been able to shake both its scares and its touching story from my mind - You must see it immediately and you must see it in the cinema.

MoreHorror Rating: 4 Bloody Hatchets out of 5.

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