Strong Atmosphere & Performance Raise Mediocre “Mama”


Have you ever purchased a movie simply because of who starred in it? That’s the story with me and “Mama,” and I must say… I wish I’d rented it.

When a strained businessman (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) murders his wife and takes his young daughters out to a seemingly abandoned cabin to kill them and himself, the girls are suddenly saved by an unseen force: a force that drags the father to his death.

Five years later, his brother Lucas (also played by Coster-Waldau) discovers that his endless search efforts have paid off… Young Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse) have been found… But they have been away from civilization for so long, they crawl around like animals and react violently to human contact. Months later, a selfishly-motivated psychologist secures custody for Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel (Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain of Zero Dark Thirty and The Help). Unlike Lucas, Annabel wants nothing to do with the girls, and they feel the same way about her. But when an unseen force attacks Lucas, putting him into a coma, she is forced to accept the responsibilities of a mother. Annabel slowly realizes that someone – or something – has come for the girls. Something that is growing increasingly jealous of Annabel’s growing bond with the girls.
The movie is not bad… It’s just dull. It’s oozing with atmosphere, but the atmosphere is more depressing than creepy, and when the horror finally hits, it’s wrapped up far too neatly and without enough struggle to truly make Annabel’s journey feel worthwhile.

Despite the lackluster film she is headlining, Jessica Chastain proves fully capable in the horror genre. She proved a strong dramatic actress in her scene-stealing role in “The Help” (for which she got an Oscar nomination) and as the determined, hard-headed lead in the excellent “Zero Dark Thirty.” Here, she’s no slouch, proving yet again that she’s one of the most versatile actors working today. Her character is, quite frankly, a self-centered bitch, and Chastain is not afraid of being unlikeable at first. Regardless of the movie itself, she never seems to choose anything other than genuinely interesting roles. The young girls, Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse are good too… Shockingly good for their ages. Coster-Waldau is good, but gets precious little to do.

As stated above, the atmosphere is strong, but depressing… And the ending is a plate of scrambled eggs… It’s a well-made film, just not a particularly exciting or fun one.

–Joshua Dean