Ever since the popular Woman in black came to our cinemas, there’s been a renewed interest in jump scare horrors. This brought Andrés Muschietti’s Mama to crawl onto the big screen today. I’m at a stage in life where jump-scares just aren’t enough for me anymore. The cinema was filled with teenagers that would squeal at every classic trick. I want a bit more from my horrors now, perhaps having some actual horror rather than opting for a jump-scare so often it becomes predictable.
Thats not to say Mama was a bad film exactly, just that it could have done with being a little bit more inventive with its scare-techniques. I’ve grown up on horrors such as The Orphanage by Juan Antonio Bayona, Saw (The first only) by James Wan and Mikael Håfström’s 1408, that create a category of ‘intellectual’ horror/thriller, with a good story. One thing Mama has in common with these is it has a promising story. It follows two children Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lily (Isabelle Nélisse) who are abandoned in the woods and looked after by a ghostly guardian until their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) take them in and try to adapt them back to society. With such a good potential, it’s a shame that the film reveals itself too quickly. In the first 15 minutes of the film, you’ve already had a fair good look at the ghostly Mama which robs her image of some ‘scare’. It makes the horror dull and the director should have stopped relying on jumps and more on the slow reveal and suspense of the character.
The actors were generally good. The kids were wonderful: as is rare for child-actors and Megan Charpentier worked well with them. Their character relations could have done with a little bit more development, but you got the gist. In fact, the hints that Annabel wasn’t a born mother were thrown quite evidently into the audiences’ faces when she celebrates a negative pregnancy test. I guess it’s a clever angle, but perhaps a little more subtlety wouldn’t go amiss, so the audience could work out the characters. Lucas wasn’t as convincing, especially nearing the end when I thought his character had been possessed because he delivered a line so badly. But ah well, you can’t get everything right when it comes to popular cinema.
Generally, Mama was a decent film. Its shocks may have been predictable, but it still gets you off-guard occasionally. Its plot was good, but they showed it all too quickly leaving nothing to work out. So, I guess it’s good for anyone who just wants a jump with no real hard work.