The October Diaries: Mama

Illustration by Max Brown
Blurbs by Sean & Christof

October 7th, 2015:

Year: 2013
Director: Andrés Muschietti (as Andy Muschietti)
Format: Amazon
From IMDB: Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?
Taglines: A mother’s love is forever.


Christof’s Take:

What I Liked:

The premise is respectable. Children who are raised by a ghost. Pretty neato.

Also, a POV flashback scene was particularly well-don. I especially enjoyed the groovy manipulation of the footage. We’re pretty accustomed to flashback footage being discolored or saturated or unsaturated or what-have-you, so to see one with an interesting quality to the aesthetic of a flashback sequence is surprisingly rare.

What I Didn’t Like:

While the premise is (as I mentioned before) neato, they only used it as a vehicle to get where ghost movies often go, which was a bit of a disappointment. I think there is a lot of unexplored potential there. I want to see grown-ups who were raised by ghosts their whole lives. What are those scrappy, wily creeps capable of?

Mama achieved getting a couple jump-scares out of me, but that’s about it. I get bored looking at a spooky-entity-CGI. Too clean. A gross-out ghost face with the pseudo-texture of computer graphics has too much inherent polish to ever be effective. It can still look cool, interesting, and fun, but it just doesn’t give me the goods, which explains why it is restricted to quick startles: the longer you look at the ghost, the less you believe it.

Final Thoughts:

Is there some kind of rule that ghost movies or haunted-family flicks have to be melodramatic? I understand that it’s built into the metaphors and logic of ghosts that there’s usually some dang mystery that must be solved, that the ghosts themselves are haunted by the past and not just doing the haunting, but must it always seem to be so dour and weepy? If that’s what you’re looking for, then give Mama a visit.


Sean’s Take:

What I liked:

The children’s acclimation from feral to domesticated (outdoor cats struggling with becoming indoor cats) was effectively rendered by the child actors as well as Jessica Chastain as our lead. I particularly enjoyed the two little girls having different reactions to the domestication. One digs the familial warmth and the other misses eating cherries and moths for breakfast lunch and dinner. The two get to carry these attributes through to the finish as well.

The line, uttered by a clerk at the local archives, “A ghost is an emotion bent out of shape.”

I loved the POV flashback, through crazy Mama eyes, as she goes on a Nun-stabbing, baby-snatching, cliff-diving, rampage. I briefly felt the type of visceral rush usually reserved for theme parks and the film Gravity.

Sometimes I like the gloss and sheen of a well-made piece of studio horror as long as it has it’s head on straight, and this one did for the most part. There were a lot of complicated maternal instincts butting head in this one and the director and script were able to balance them well with the more fun stuff.

What I didn’t like:

The occasional reliance on loud audio spikes to scare the audience. There’s sound design then there’s loud banging. Horror films can often get the two confused. Mama at least used her loud bangs effectively.

Final thoughts:

The combination of supernatural horror and childlike playfulness has been done before, and it’s done often, but the combination rarely feels as integral to the plot as it did during Mama.

I had a pretty good time. I was never bored and liked where the film wound up (for the most part). It was tough to follow last night’s Stage Fright and this one inevitably suffered from not being able to sniff that film’s excellence.



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