Mama - Blu-ray Review

'I must at this point single out the fact - for what feels like the billionth time - that Horror films cease to be scary when the thing doing the scaring is revealed to be a shoddily composed CGI production'

As a troubled man heads to an isolated Cabin In The Woods, you start to wonder quite how much cliché you are going to have to cope with in Mama, the latest in a line of offerings 'presented by' Guillermo Del Toro. In comparative terms there's actually probably not all that much, but even 'not all that much' these days is still a sign that Mama wades knee deep into things you've probably seen before.

In that regard, it's not altogether unlike this review, which must at this point single out the fact - for what feels like the billionth time - that Horror films cease to be scary when the thing doing the scaring is revealed to be a shoddily composed CGI production. If you don't have the time or the budget for a significant gribbly, don't attempt to show one. In fairness to director Andrés Muschietti, he gets away with furtive glances until the final third, when predictably his source of evil starts to pop up all over the place, in distinctly non-scary ways.

The cliché and the poor antagonist then seem like afflictions ready to be levelled at almost any modern Horror film going. In contrast, there's arguably not many from the modern crop where you can praise their depth of theme and grasp of the central idea. Mama is interested in mothers; both the titular weird one and Jessica Chastain's reluctant Annabel, seen being relieved that she is not pregnant during the film's opening moments.

There's a decent amount going on here around the innate natural laws of protection and the-not-necessarily innate laws of becoming a mother and learning how the previous works. It's an interesting idea and it marks an all too rare female-led narrative, which doesn't rely on Annabel being a screaming damsel and instead relies on her being core to the plot and its ideas.

The 'horror' itself never really gets above tame, although one interesting scene, where we see one of Annabel's charges playing with a blanket, pulled by someone who we know cannot be in the room, is effective. There's an inclusion of the now regulation 'camera flash' scene, which hasn't been terrifying since the original Silent House for those who saw it there, but will probably hit home for anyone not well versed in its increasing usage.

The final third takes into account more of Del Toro's back catalogue and influence than it needed to, pushing us into a fantasy where previously the film hadn't really felt the need to tread. That, coupled with the lame reveal, means it can feel somewhat damp, though the previous fine good work, including from a dual-role playing Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and a bizarrely but attractively cast Chastain, shouldn't be forgotten.




Mama is out in the UK on Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand from June 17th 2013.

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