- A modern-day ‘mum’ slugs it out with a supernatural mum for control of two unwieldy kids
- Nothing much to be jumpy about, but Chastain does enough to convince us about her transformation
SOME may say that the scares in Spanish director Andres Muschietti’s horror film, Mama, are blase, which is true.
A floating creature suddenly appears behind people, seeps out of walls, hides in cupboards (cool!), moves on the floor with just its mop of hair visible, and drains the life out of humans.
Its origins, too, are unoriginal. They’ve got something to do with a mental asylum and a dead baby from the 19th century who hasn’t been buried.
What the creature has got going for it is its love for two human children who ended up in its hut when their father, on the lam for killing their mother, decides to hide in it.
Five years go by, but their artist Uncle Lucas (Game of Thrones‘ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who has never given up on looking for them, finds them in the hut.
He and his rock band bassist girlfriend Annabelle (Jessica Chastain), who’s relieved that she’s not pregnant, take the two children in, despite the protestations of their rich Aunt Jean (Jane Moffat), and, reluctantly, Annabelle, too.
Dear viewers, it’s scary seeing the two children, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lily (Isabelle Nelisse). They’re first seen scurrying in the hut on all fours and jumping on the fridge, ready to pounce on anything that threatens them.
Once back in civilisation, Victoria quickly learns to walk and speak but Lily behaves as if she were still in the hut.
Of course, they didn’t leave the hut alone, as the floating creature followed them back to the luxurious house sponsored by an institute headed by Dr Gerald Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash).
The good doctor’s generosity is not really altruistic; he wants to study the two children up close.
The kids embrace the creature, as it’s the only emotional thing they’ve known during their five years cut off from civilisation.
In interviews with the doctor, they call the creature “mama”. Check out a scene of the creature playing with one of the kids in a room.
The film’s theme becomes clear when Lucas is removed from the picture (the creature throws him down a flight of stairs) and the kids are stuck with Annabelle, the antithesis to motherhood with her T-shirt barely covering her tattoos, jeans and a bad attitude (redhead Chastain dons a black wig).
She has no maternal instincts (she throws canned food into the pan for the kids) and tells Lucas that the kids hate her. “I can’t do this. This is not my job,” she whines.
Chastain, nominated for a best actress Oscar for her role in Zero Dark Thirty, just does enough to slowly migrate from being a bad-ass guardian to a loving foster mum.
Thus, it’s a modern-day guardian slugging it out with a supernatural mum for the souls of two blonde kids.
The supernatural mum has superhuman strength, but it doesn’t anticipate the strength of Annabelle’s determination, especially when breaking into the doctor’s office to steal information on the two kids.
I mentioned that the scares are nothing out of the ordinary, but in one scene where Annabelle is about to open a cupboard with the creature in it, some people in my cinema emitted groans of warning
3 out of 5
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