Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend, Annabel, (Jessica Chastain), have been tracking his missing nieces, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse), for five years. When the girls are found alive in a remote mountain cabin, the couple takes them in. Annabel, a musician who has no intentions of becoming a mother, takes on the role reluctantly. But when Lucas is injured and slips into a coma, she becomes the sole guardian for the girls, and she soon realizes someone is coming to visit them at night. The girls’ psychiatrist (Daniel Kash) believes the mysterious woman they call “Mama” is an imaginary guardian they created to deal with the trauma of being abandoned. But as time goes by, Annabel isn’t sure Mama is imaginary...or harmless.
Mama was inspired by a Spanish short film of the same name, but also has elements of The Woman in Black as well as del Toro’s other famous horror movie, The Devil’s Backbone. Feral children are rarely shown on screen, but they’re reflected here skillfully (and, from the little yours truly knows about feral children, relatively accurately).
The movie is not without its faults, and one is typical of the genre; the tendency for characters to do stupid, illogical things like investigate strange noises by themselves. At night. In unfamiliar areas. It’s hard to feel sympathy for these people. But perhaps the most interesting character, and the one audiences will root for, is Annabel, the rock musician and initially reluctant mother figure who ends up fighting to protect the girls. Actress Jessica Chastain was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Zero Dark Thirty, and she makes the shift to rock musician rather well. Forget the people who set themselves up for certain death; this is Annabel’s story.
Mama has typical horror movie flaws, but they can be forgiven. Hattiesburg residents: Catch it at The Grand 18 on Grand Drive.
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