Entertainment

Reel Reviews: Mama doesn’t make it all better

Isabelle Nélisse and Megan Charpentier are left in the care of a spirit called Mama.  - Universal Pictures
Isabelle Nélisse and Megan Charpentier are left in the care of a spirit called Mama.
— image credit: Universal Pictures

Raised by a mysterious apparition for five years after being abandoned in the woods, Lilly, now six, and Victoria, eight, are returned to their extended family for care and upbringing.

The problem is, sweet as they look, the girls have some seriously creepy issues and they brought someone home with them, Mama.

We say, “Mama doesn’t always make sense, but you had better listen to her.”

TAYLOR: Me likey! Mama isn’t perfect. In fact, if you really think about the overall arching of the story, Mama exhibits some faulty logic. Unfortunately, I can’t go into any detail without ruining what shred of mystery the film has. Fortunately, the film makes up for its shortcomings by being beautiful and effectively scary.

HOWE: I didn’t really care about the flaws in Mama. It was the best fright movie I have seen in the last couple of years. The two little girls (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse) are great as the creepy forest children brought back to the civilized world. I loved how director Andres Muschietti made them move, some of it looked unnatural and that gave them a sinister, scary feel.

TAYLOR: The success of the scares in this (or any other horror film) are the results of a simple equation: caring what happens to the characters plus having them threatened, preferably creepily plus perfect editing. You need the right amount of give and take. Mama is a film that has that. When Jessica Chastain is wandering around looking for the bump in the night, I wanted Mama to jump out and say boo. I was anxious to see her again. I’ve heard some people complaining about Mama’s looks, but I couldn’t get enough of her. This film got my heart racing, more than once.

HOWE: Its nice that Mama had a backbone to the story, not just some haunting of a house. You can’t beat a good ghost story with a mystery to unravel to find out who Mama is or who she was. My only question is where was Scooby when you need him?

TAYLOR: I thought of Scooby Doo as well, if only because Chastain drove a Volkswagon van.

Mama was executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, which could mean he actually had very little to do with the movie, but his name being attached to it so prominently is warranted. The film has that elegant, oil painting look of del Toro’s other films, like Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. Putting the del Toro name on the film has helped introduce us all to director Andres Muschietti. He produced a $40,000, three minute short featuring Mama chasing the girls around in a spooky house. It was the strength of that short that led to the feature being made. I look forward to seeing more from Muschietti.

— Taylor gives Mama 3.5 pounds of moths out of 5.

— Howe gives it 3.5 cherry pips out of 5.

The film is currently showing at the Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.

Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are movie reviewers living in Vernon, B.C.  Their column, Reel Reviews, appears Friday and Sunday in The Morning Star.

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