Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mama: An Early Film Review

My friend, Kody Boye, and I scored passes to an early showing of Mama in Austin last night. The press took up about a quarter of the audience, so we were happy we arrived three hours early to get in line. To make sure the theater is packed, the movie companies always give out more passes than needed so an early arrival is necessary to get into the film.

I sat and read THERE by Denise Grover Swank (which is amazing) while we waited and also chatted with someone we made friends with at the Warm Bodies screening. The last horror movie I saw in the theater was The Lady in Black, which I loved, so I was excited to see another atmospheric film. I'm not big on slasher films or torture porn, so I love it whenever I truly creepy film comes along.  

I had already seen the short film that inspired Guillermo Del Toro to produce a feature length film, and it had scared me plenty. Seriously. I watched it in full daylight with Kody and we both jumped and screamed when we saw the short film.

Go ahead and watch the short film now. I dare you!  Also, don't worry about spoiling yourself for the movie. 

The original short film.

See what I mean?  And mama in the motion picture is much scarier.! Ugh! Shivers!

Anyway, we got our wristbands, filed into the theater, and settled in with high hopes that we would be scared out of our minds.

Let me put it this way, halfway through the film I turned to Kody and said, "I think we can go now."

Mama is a very well-acted, beautifully shot, and has a solid story, even if it's not really anything too original. You can somewhat guess where the whole story is headed, yet its the execution of the film that makes it worthwhile from the very beginning to the end.

There is so much about this film that I loved, it is hard to nail down just the highlights, but I'll try.

--It had genuinely creepy as hell moments. There is one particular scene where you think you're saying one thing then realize its something altogether much more sinister. Oh, my gawd, I jumped. It's my favorite scene in the movie and the one where I was ready to run out of the theater. Look for the scene where Victoria is making breakfast and Annabelle is putting away laundry.

--I loved that the main character, Annabelle, was an alternative chick with a penchant for Misfits t-shirts and heavy black eyeliner and eyes shadow. She's not interested in being a mother, but she loves her artist boyfriend enough to leave behind her rock band and help him try to give his feral nieces a good home. She's obviously not feeling it for much of the film, but she's trying. It was refreshing to see someone who looked like she could easily mix in my scene as the lead. Seriously loved her heavy eyeliner and awesome boots!

Annabelle isn't a one note character either. She evolves and grows stronger throughout the story. By the end, her steely determination was awesome to see. Also, she is pretty compassionate about who Mama really is, but is not about to go down without a fight for Lily and Victoria.

--Lily and Victoria, the feral children, are so freaking creepy themselves. This are not sweet little kids that immediately warm up to their new caretakers. Victoria, the oldest, is deeply troubled.  Because she was three when she and her sister ended up alone in the forest, she can speak and appears to adjust more quickly to the modern world. Yet, she still struggles to keep a distance from her new guardians because she fears what Mama might do to them. "Mama is jealous," she says at one point. Victoria has to wear glasses and lived her years with Mama in a blurry haze. Once back in civilization, she wears glasses again, but removes them when Mama appears. It's evident that Victoria can see what Mama truly is, but doesn't want to accept it at first.

Lily was one year old when she ended up in the forest, so Mama is all she knows. She loves Mama without reservation and is most like Mama. Lily is the child featured in the poster and in the still to the left.  She doesn't fear Mama, but loves her completely. 

In fact, Lily was actually incredibly unnerving throughout the movie.  

When Victoria begins to distance herself from Mama, that is when trouble begins to truly brew.

-As for the fucking creepy ass ghost, UGH!  She was truly, truly creepy. There were several scenes with her that just...UGH!  Mama has a sympathetic background to some degree, but she's truly terrifying. And her appearance is very disturbing. Mama's brief appearances work better than her extended appearance at the end only because you adjust to how she looks and she loses some of her creepy factor.  Yet, she was still terrifyingly beautiful and well-executed.

Final thoughts...

Is this anything new? Uhm, not really. But it's presented in a way that is very creepy and yet fun. Our audience, jumped, screamed, and laughed. You can sort of figure out how things will most likely end for the cast, but the director did something that totally floored me at the very end. Let me say I appreciated the ballsyness of it.

I definitely recommend Mama if you're up for a creepy, disturbing ghost movie.

The Mama trailer.

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