“Mama’s” gotta let go…

Posted on January 20th, 2013
Posted on January 20th, 2013

Coop here.  I’d like to welcome my new guest critic, Chris Moore.  I’ve admired Chris’s excellent taste in film (especially horror films) for awhile now and I’m pleased he has agreed to contribute his insightful reviews the site.  Glad to have you, Chris!

by Chris Moore

With Guillermo del Toro’s seal of approval, an intriguing concept, a game performance by this year’s “it” girl, Jessica Chastain, Universal Pictures’ “Mama” was poised to be one of this year’s most interesting chillers. Regrettably, Mama isn’t much more than a wasted opportunity.

Five years after their father left them stranded in a secluded cabin, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) are sent to live their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his slightly cold and immature girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain). As he tries to help the young girls return to normal civilization, Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) discovers that while the girls were in the cabin, they developed an imaginary mother figured named – you guessed it – Mama. Soon, it becomes clear to all parties involved that Mama might not be a figment of Victoria and Lilly’s imaginations after all.

Poor “Mama”. Its only major crime is showing too much too soon and then dwelling on it. “Mama” has the makings of a fine horror film – classy psychological thriller even. As the main characters begin to wonder if Victoria and Lilly are really telling the truth about Mama, so should the audience. Because Mama’s first appearance comes 5 minutes into the film, the audience is left with no question as to what’s really going on. Mama is real. Very real. Now, we’re forced to wait another 45 minutes for everyone else to figure it out as Mama dashes into closets, slithers up walls, and plays peekaboo with them.

Still, a film can easily overcome being overzelous. The question is – Is Mama actually frightening? Not really. The title character looks like something rendered by a 6 year old on an outdated CGI program. She twists, turns, levitates, billows, and contorts herself like a gymnast on crack, but it’s never very scary. There’s something so fake about Mama that it takes one out of the film every time she shows up. She fares better when we’re only given fleeting glimpses of her, which are frustratingly rare.

Actually, a lot of “Mama” feels fake. When a main character is attacked by Mama a little before the halfway mark, falls down a flight of stairs, lands on their neck with a crunch, and only ends up in a coma (which they get out of in just enough time to serve a goofy plot device), I nearly checked out completely, but being a good horror fan, I tried my best to make sense of it. I mean, after all, how many horror films have we seen where a character is stabbed over 10 times and, somehow, manages to show up in the sequel? It’s not always a deal breaker.

Yes, it’s a horror film and characters must do stupid things to serve the story, but “Mama” has some real head scratchers. Dr. Dreyfuss makes a trek to the cabin Victoria and Lilly grew up in, but he decides to do it just as it’s about to get dark, essentially sealing his fate right then and there. Not much brighter is Jean (Jane Moffat), the children’s aunt and sister of their late mother, who decides she must get proof of Annabel’s alleged mistreatment of the girls so she can win custody of them. How does she plan to do this one might ask? Well, the film would have us believe Jean can just casually sneak into their house at night and snap some digital photos of God knows what. Her plan doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Like last year’s dull as dishwater “The Possession”, moths are used as instruments of fear – signaling that evil is at large. I’m not sure why this is becoming a trend, but I, personally, have never found moths particularly terrifying. A little annoying, yes, but not exactly nightmare material.

After a series of not-so-exciting attacks, it’s up to Annabel to head back to the cabin and save the girls before Mama takes them back to the other side with her to replace the child she lost years ago. It’s a silly, semi-lyrical ending that comes out of nowhere and once again, feels fake. It’s more like something out of a tear jerk-y children’s film than a horror movie.

Speaking of Annabel, she seems to be the only slightly realistic thing about this movie. As played by the chameleon-esque Jessica Chastain, whose career choices continue to surprise. Annabel is a hard, un-maternal shrew who, when we first meet her, couldn’t be more overjoyed when her own pregnancy test turns out negative. Once the girls come into her life, Annabel begins to change and care for the girls after a little while. It’s an interesting character and an interesting arc. I’d imagine it’s the reason Chastain signed on to the film in the first place.

“Mama” is far from a total failure, but given the talent and potential involved, it’s hard to not call it a disappointment. The lousy CGI, barely threatening title characters, and dumb plot devices keep “Mama” from reaching its full potential. This is rainy day rental material at best.

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Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…

A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, 2017 Oxford Film Festival

WINNER: BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

SEMI-FINALIST: 2017 NanoCon International Science-Fiction Film Festival

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2017 Oxford Film Festival
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2017 Clarksdale Film Festival
2017 Twisted Dreams Film Festival
2017 Tupelo Film Festival
2017 NanoCon International Sci-Fi Film Festival
2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival
2017 End of Days Film Festival
2017 Grenada Afterglow Film Festival
2017 Shiver International Film Festival
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Northern Mississippi 1932:
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GOD MAKER remains unfinished and in limbo for now, but the trailer expresses the mood and imagery intended for the project...

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Morgan Freeman asks Coop a question at THE BEST DAY premiere! Video below…

My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

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