Saturday, May 18, 2013
The basic premise of Mama is that a man loses it, kills his wife, kidnaps his two daughters, but then wrecks his car and he and the girls have to take refuge in a cabin in the woods. Soon after the man dies and the girls are left to fend for themselves. Impossibly the girls are found alive five years later. The older girl has some memory of her previous life, but the younger one is mostly feral.
When asked how they survived on their own, the girls refer to someone called 'Mama' who took care of them. Their psychologist thinks Mama is an imaginary friend. She's not. When the girls are sent to live with their uncle and his girlfriend, Mama comes looking for them.
One of my favorite horror movies is 1980's The Changeling with George C. Scott. I like it because it's a ghost story with a mystery at its heart. Mama is similar in that it features a secret that must be unraveled among all the ghostly goings on.
The movie has a high creep factor most of the way through. In fact, my only problem with it is the end, where Mama is seen much too clearly. She's really disturbing through most of the movie because you never get a good look at her. When she's fully revealed in her special effects glory, she looses some of her power to scare. The best horror films never let you really see the monster, I think. Nothing can be as scary as what you were imagining. Then again, sometimes you have to see the monster for the sake of the plot.
All and all though, Mama is a real chiller. It was based on a three minute short film which was in some ways scarier than the 2 hour movie. In fact, had I been the writer charged with taking that short and expanding it, I'd have gone in a very different direction. But that's just me.