Following a stock market crash, a now poor businessman returns home, shooting his wife and kidnapping his children. Icy roads and irresponsible driving lead to a car wreck and the man takes his children to an abandoned cabin in the woods. Attempting to shoot one of his daughters, the businessman is killed by a ghost – Mama. Years later, the two girls are found by their grandfather and sent to live with the business man’s brother (the little girls’ uncle). The uncle and his “desperately-clinging-to-her-teenage-years” girlfriend find out they got more than they bargained for as they try to teach the little girls how to cope in the world outside of the cabin.
Great trailer, Horror-ble movie…
1. The ghost is revealed way, way too early in the film. One of the aspects of a great horror movie is the ability to build suspense through lack of knowledge, meaning if the audience doesn’t know what is killing people, their imaginations run wild – it could be anything. Not this movie. You know exactly what is killing people, you know exactly what it looks like, and you know all of this before the title appears on the screen.
2. So many subplots that it made my head spin. Apparently just having a ghost terrorizing and killing people wasn’t enough for Guillermo del Toro, so we also have to keep up with a psychiatrist researching “Mama”, an uncle being haunted by the ghost of his brother while recovering in the hospital, the uncle’s divorced wife trying to frame the uncle’s girlfriend for child abuse so she can assume custody, and the trials of a woman overcoming her immaturity to raise two children. Trying to keep up with everyone’s stories detracts from the suspense and cripples the horror. We don’t need all of that nonsense – we need scary.
3. Predictability on steroids. If you think someone is lurking behind the corner; they are. If you think someone is about to jump out; they are. You would think with so much depth in the story that it would be impossible for it to be a flat movie – not an impossibly flat movie, but you’d be wrong. “Mama” is right where you think she is, every time you think she’s there. Since you know she’s there, and you know what’s going to happen next, it’s really difficult to keep your attention. I kept finding myself thinking about groceries and what to get for dinner, until I remembered “Oh right, I’m in the middle of a movie.”
4. Dude, what is the deal with the make-up on “Mama”? She looks like a mix between Elephant Man and something from the movie “Beetlejuice”. At one point she possesses the uncle’s ex-wife, and when they revealed her face I literally burst into laughter. On top of the terrible make-up, “Mama” screams like a banshee, growls like a tiger and breathes like the girl from “The Grudge”. Yeah, it’s an odd combination, but once again, odd does not qualify as scary. Most of the time she just floats around like the ghost from “Darkness Falls”. At some point, we have to draw a line between inspiration and blatant rip-off.
5. Once again, I find myself typing a sentence that I cannot believe came from a plot in a movie. Deep breath. Here we go: “Mama” wraps her dress around one of the little girls, jumps off a cliff, and they both explode into bats… or moths, or something. I don’t know. Nobody knows. The director didn’t even attempt to explain that one. Shortly after it happens, the movie cuts to credits. The end. I can’t even think of an explanation without it sounding equally as retarded. The little girl likes to eat moths, so maybe she just turned into moths? See, I told you. Equally retarded. You try it. Someone try to explain that one without sounding like an idiot.
In closing, there are a lot of original and redeeming qualities in this film, so don’t write it off without seeing it yourself. Most of the time, I will tell you if a movie is just a waste of time, but with this one I can see how some people might enjoy it. Anything’s possible.
Cheers and goodnight.