In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Andrés Muschietti's Mama, the first horror picture of 2013 – well, the first one worth mentioning anyway – releases today.

Rescued after living in the woods for five years, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) & Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) go to stay with their uncle and his girlfriend. Soon, it becomes apparent that something may have followed them.

As I've said before, producer Guillermo del Toro has a very good track record for recognizing talent and facilitating their visions onto the big screen. Expanding on his three-minute short from 2008, Muschietti has fashioned himself a solid little film here.

Mama succeeds on a few different levels, but first and foremost is due to the performances of its young leads. Charpentier & Nélisse are quite remarkable, especially when you consider their roles require them to behave like animals rather than children for a good chunk of the film. At their age, this isn't something that can be taught, so it is raw talent and instinct we are seeing onscreen. It also helps – and this is a testament to the kind of power del Toro now wields within the industry – that the adult leads are top tier talent like recent Golden Globe winner Jessica Chastain and the “King killer” himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Aside from that though, I was taken aback by how wonderfully shot this film was. It has several well conceived set pieces, including a dream sequence with a very unique visual style. There was also a definite Asian horror influence in Muschietti's execution, which I thought suited the material. I was drawn in by the energetic artistry on display for most of this film.

Isabelle Nélisse (left), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier & Jessica Chastain in Mama. 

Sadly, as is the case with many horror films these days, the overt visual effects do become a problem toward the end. Still, Mama is a big improvement over 2011's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark because at least Muschietti holds back for as long as possible. Using clever ways to mask her, such as blurring and flashes, it is a good stretch into the film before we see Mama full on. Even though the design is rather cool, some practical integration would've helped a lot.

It is also distressing that the third act feels clunky and contrived. Fortunately, I was invested enough by then to be more forgiving than perhaps I should have been. It wasn't like my experience with last year's Sinister, where everything went off the rails to the point where I was just rolling my eyes by the time the credits rolled. There was just too much good stuff within Mama to write it off for lazy fourth-quarter screenwriting. Plus, considering the parade of duds Hollywood trotted out last year, Mama looks like a masterpiece by comparison.

No, I stand by my declaration that Mama is the first good horror film of 2013.

No comments: