Joel does Mama

Mama poster“Victoria, what’s under the bed?”

The Scoop: 2013, Directed by Andres Muschietti, starring Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Tagline:  A mother’s love is forever.

Capsule Summary:  Two little girls are rescued after five years in the woods… and the being that cared for them wants them back.

joelbannerJoel’s Rating:  2 1/2 out of 5 Wild Cherries

Joel’s Review:

(singing) M is for the Monster that adores me…
O is for her Otherworldly charm…
T is for the Terror that she causes…
H is for her always causing Harm…
E is for Ectoplasm she leaves me…
And R for the Rage that she feels…
Put them together and what does it spell…what? Are you telling me the name of the film is ‘Mama’, not ‘Mother’? Son of a Bushwhacker, now I have to start all over!!!

Okay, I’m better now.

A Search party finds two children that had disappeared five years before living in a cabin in the woods. Their parents are deceased and the children Victoria (7 years old) and Lilly (5 years old) have become feral, which brings them to the attention of psychiatrist Gerald Dreyfuss (played by Daniel Kash). Arrangements are made so that the two girls’ only living relative, Lucas Desange (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) will care for them along with his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain). A house is provided by Dreyfuss so that he can monitor the children’s progress. Both of the girls refer to a ‘Mama’ who took care of them, although the search party nor the psychiatric personnel find no evidence of a protector. As the children begin to adjust to their new situation (Victoria more than Lilly), very strange things begin to happen in the household. As Annabel, Lucas, and Dreyfuss look further into the happenings, they begin to realize that ‘Mama’ may be real, and she is crankier than Vicki Lawrence from ‘Mama’s Family’.

For the most part, being a Mutant Reviewer has been a blast. So many of my favorite films and genres are mostly considered cultish, so I can just watch the stuff I love and have fun. However, I also recently entered the world of streaming video as opposed to cable, so there are a LOT of movies that I didn’t watch when they came out in theaters that are suddenly available to me. So instead of picking movies I already like all the time, I’m going to review some of those movies I’ve been curious about. I hope the process isn’t too painful!

I’m not spoiling anything when I say that Mama is a supernatural horror movie; you get that from the trailers. It is a variant of a ghost story essentially, with a ghost that haunts both a house and also certain people, following them to another place as well. Part of the movie is spent trying to figure out if Mama is real and then what it is (Yes, this horror movie actually has a plot beyond killings and special effects…my brain almost exploded watching it!). One mystery they didn’t explain is what dance Mama was doing every time you see her…I would say it was kind of like a jerking twist (a song Chubby Checker never got around to writing, I’m sure)! The movie does build some atmosphere and there is a creep factor, which I like from a horror movie. I don’t care about body counts or how ugly the killer is, I would rather have a movie send a chill up my spine.

There are some scenes with some truly creepy effects, one of which (also in the trailer) shows one of the children floating across their bedroom while Annabel is walking down a hallway away from the room’s doorway.

I do have some issues with the movie, however. It could be that I’m an older viewer and have been watching these films most of my life, but it seems like whenever the script needed to change direction, they chose something that a dozen other movies in recent years have done. Creepy children with shining eyes? CHECK! Weird ghost thing with jerky movements? CHECK! Professional finds out about ghost first and then gets killed? Yup. Someone dragged away from the camera? Oh, HELL YEAH! CAUSE STONE COLD SAYS SO! (pant, pant! Focus. I can do this!). And honestly, how many other movies have done the ‘someone is pushed or thrown down stairs so the no one can actually tell there was an attack’ routine? It seemed like every time the creepy atmosphere began to draw me in, the story did something extremely lazy that we have seen in other ghost movies in the last few years. Unless you are doing a parody or other comedy, you shouldn’t steal so many shots from earlier movies of the same genre. And again, maybe this is just me, but Mama herself as a creature didn’t seem all that scary.

There are also some examples of Mama having whatever power she needs for the scene to work. SPOILER ALERT: At one point Mama, who as a person died a long time ago, goes into a hospital and messes with some of the electronic equipment. Now, I could handle that if it was just a general disruption of electricity, but no, she knows just what she wants to do and even leaves the word ‘Mama’ printed on a screen. Apparently, she has been keeping up on technological advances while in the netherworld (I’ve heard she thought Lost was the funniest TV sitcom of all time).
Even worse, there are times where the characters in the film do something that lacks any kind of real logic. Yes, I know that is an old slasher movie cliché, with people willing to descend into a dark basement after hearing a noise when their friends are disappearing and all, but this film isn’t a slasher movie and obviously tried to be more than just a premise for death dealing. I find it strange that the filmmakers tried so hard to make create a better scary movie but then made the people do some pretty confusing things.

I will admit, I was surprised by how the film ended.  I won’t go into any details for those who want to watch it, but the final section of Mama is harder to predict than your average horror movie.

So, essentially, I was not all that impressed with Mama.  It isn’t a bad film, really, it just isn’t a great one either.  It certainly is not boring or dull, and I can definitely see why someone who isn’t as jaded as I am would enjoy it.

"Danny isn't here, Mrs. Torrance."

“Danny isn’t here, Mrs. Torrance.”


  • There is motion test footage of Mama that is actually more disturbing and creepy than what we see in the movie, with NO Additional effects added.
  • Few movies have looked into the realm of ‘feral children’.  I find myself wondering what kind of horror movie could be made around the subject without ghosts and supernatural additions.
  • Producer Guillermo Del Toro has said in interviews that he would have fought the movie studio over the ending if the studio had tried to change things, saying that the ending was important and intrinsic to the film.  In the end, the studio did not really challenge him on the subject.
  • I have a twisted mind; I keep imagining a parody with Mama June and Honey Boo Boo impersonators.  Maybe not an entire parody film, but a comedy sketch or part of a bigger film.

Groovy Quotes

Lucas: Hi Victoria. I’m your Daddy’s brother.  Remember? Uncle Luke?

Dr. Dreyfuss: Victoria and Lily were found in deplorable conditions.  Their parents gone.  Alone in the wilderness for at least five years.  How they survived is unexplainable.

Dr. Dreyfuss: How have they been affected?
Annabel: They talk to the walls.
Dr. Dreyfuss: And what do they say?
Girls, whispering:  Mama.

Victoria: Mama! Stop it! You promised!

If you like this movie, try these:

  • Insidious
  • Paranormal Activity
  • Session 9

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