The movie “Mama” is a prime example of a major problem with the horror industry today. No one wants to make creatures anymore. The ridiculous necessity to generate ghosts and other frightening images with computer graphics has been destroying this genre for a decade. If for some reason things can't be done with latex or any of the other old school special effects methods, then extreme caution must be used when resorting to a mouse and a keyboard. You can't just draw in a monster next to the actors without effort or you'll end up with something reminiscent of the film “Roger Rabit”. The creators of this picture obviously didn't think about that when they put this waste of celluloid together. It really baffles the mind knowing that a master such as Guillermo Del Toro could let things get so out of hand. He may not have directed it but he sure didn't mind slapping his name all over the promotions.
The plot of this movie is vaguely unique so there is one thing going for it. Two young girls are raised in an abandoned house somewhere in the back of the woods by the ghost of a mother who committed suicide while taking her baby with her. The child's body was lost during the event however, so it was only natural that the girls would end up filling the void. When a couple of men discover the children living in shambles and seriously acting out of the ordinary, they have the girls returned to society to live with their uncle and his rock star wanna be wife. It isn't long before the deceased surrogate returns and attempts to carry out her previous role as a single parent. Things become complicated when the children begin to warm up to their new family and start to realize that maybe a living breathing mother isn't such a bad thing to have. Jealousy is even uglier when it belongs to the undead.
There are so many ways that this film actually could have been good and maybe that's how it ended up getting the green light to begin with. If the CGI images weren't so phony looking and the ghost actually had some sort of presence in the film, a few hairs possibly could have been raised. Instead you see a cartoon witch floating through walls and contorting her body like a pretzel for absolutely no other reason than to appear scary to the audience. Those types of attempts were really obvious in this one and they cheapened the thrills. Another problem was the way the creators chose to unfold the story. Perhaps if the ghost mother's reveal didn't take place in the first five minutes of the film there would have been some mystery surrounding the events going on and more of a reason for the audience to be afraid. Maybe the acting could have been better, maybe the dialog could have been spiced up a bit and maybe visually the cinematographer could have chosen another color other than blue. This list of marks this film missed could go on and on.
In the end what you're left with is a mediocre ghost flick that probably would scare children at best. When Guillermo starts directing again the situation may be different but in the mean time it's a safe bet to stay away from movies he's produced. There could be an audience for this type of thing somewhere but it would be a great challenge for this one to even make it to the cult classic bin. Those movies don't necessarily do good at the box office but over time at least they're beloved and with horror that might just be the best thing you could get. If the film doesn't draw in the numbers it needs to at least be unique enough to be remembered. “Mama” is the type of movie you'll want to force yourself to forget.
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