I had very high hopes for this supernatural flick for two reasons: (1) because it is a Canadian film, and as a proud Canuck, I always fulfill my obligation to devour cinema from my homeland; and (2) because it was directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), a man I truly respect for his ability to blend melancholic fairy tales with horror in a way that is both beautiful and poetic. Now, I don’t mean to say that I was completely disappointed…but if you are looking for a scary movie, Mama just doesn’t deliver the way I hoped it would.
Here’s the premise, after a distraught father has murdered the mother of his two young daughters, the girls are left alone in a cabin in the woods to fend for themselves as their uncle searches desperately for them for five long years. When he finally finds them after all that time, it is a miracle that they are still alive. How did they survive in the woods on their own? Or were they alone?
Enter Mama, the spirit of a mentally disturbed woman who takes the girls under her wing and “mothers” them as if they were her own. Through flashbacks and dream sequences, you get to know Mama’s story, a tale of injustice and tragedy. To tell you the truth, this movie is more heartbreaking than anything. I found myself grieving with the ghost, pitying the young girls and emphasizing with their uncle and his wife, an unwilling mother who is obligated to play that role when the girls are brought into their home. It forces you to ask yourself if the children are better off with a human mother who doesn’t want them or the spirit of a demented mother who wants them more than anything in the world – more even than her own child that was tragically taken from her hundreds of years before. Just as I thought I might (but didn’t) shed a tear for the lonely, misunderstood sprite, the movie got hokey.
In a blatant attempt to humanize the so-called evil spirit of Mama, del Toro obliterates any hope of the movie ever becoming the haunting, terrifying thriller that it was meant to be, or at least that it was marketed to be. Instead, it is a heartrending story with beautiful camera work and a ghost that is more pitiable than dreadful.
Long story short, if you are looking to be somewhat haunted and mildly depressed by a touching story, give Mama a go. If you are looking for horror, as I always am, you might want to sit this one out.
Review by Julia Sakas
Connect with Julia: @MorningKaya