UMU’s latest ‘Sunday’s with…’ takes a look at one of director Andy Muschietti’s films – “Mama” as he was originally set to direct Universal’s “The Mummy.”
As we ring in June, I also ring in a new month of my “Sunday’s With…” series. Last month’s John Carpenter selections were a huge hit and I am so glad you all enjoyed. This month I will be focusing on another visionary director, producer and writer in the horror game, Guillermo Del Toro. Del Toro is an absolute force to be reckoned with, and is arguably the best modern horror and monster director in the business. He was also originally attached to helm an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” that was set to star another UMU favorite – Tom Cruise. Cruise also has the distinction of being linked to the director of the film I will be discussing, Andy Muschietti, as he was set to direct the upcoming Mummy film which I’m sure you may have heard something about! How’s that for six degrees of separation! Aside from his incredible take on modern horror and monster flicks, Del Toro is a huge fan of my favorite, John Carpenter, and that only enhances him in my book! So let’s dig right in, these are my Sunday’s With Guillermo Del Toro.
Release Date: January 18, 2013
Run Time: 100 minutes
Starring: Jessica Chastain
Director: Andy Muschietti
Rob’s Score: 8.3/10
“There’s a woman outside…she’s not touching the floor.”- Victoria
Mama opens up with Jeffrey Desange coping with the 2008 financial crisis which just cost him his fortune. He has already killed his two business associates, and his wife, and is now whisking his two young daughters, Victoria and Lilly, away. Dealing with the terrible things he has just done Jeffrey loses control of his car and crashes into a nearby forest. He and his daughters soon find an abandoned cabin and it is here where Jeffrey has made the decision to commit a murder suicide. As he points the gun at Victoria’s head a shadowy figures grabs Jeffrey and takes him out of the house. Later that night the two young girls are alone huddled by a fire when from out of the shadows we see a cherry being rolled to them. Fast forward five years and we meet Jeffrey’s brother Lucas, who has been searching for the girls since that day. Finally, the girls are found in a feral state in the abandoned cabin. Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss begins working with the girls, and it is with his help that Lucas, and his girlfriend Annabel gain custody of the two children. Annabel makes no effort to pretend to want the children but she is supportive of her love, Lucas. As the new “family” is trying to establish a routine together strange noises and sights start to invade the house. Investigating one of these shadows causes Lucas to fall down the steps landing him into a coma. Now it is Annabel and the recovering girls all alone. Already creeped out Annabel tries to cope with this new lifestyle, but what are those noises she keeps hearing, and why is she having such terrible nightmares, and most importantly who is this MAMA that the girls keep talking and playing with? Guillermo Del Toro was the executive producer of this film and used his name to present the film; much like Quentin Tarrantino has done with Eli Roth’s Hostel. This movie was based off the short film of the same name by Muschietti, and is a big terrifying part of the climax of the film.
Mama is a very successful horror film in many different regards. Despite what it appears to be this movie has many different layers that enable us as viewers to experience this movie different ways the more we see it. One of the things that this movie does very successfully is truly giving us different point of views on the things that are happening. If we see the movie through Lucas’s view we see a heart broken uncle who is trying to put together his broken family. Annabel’s view is one of a guitarist with no future plans of motherhood being thrown not just into the maternal role, but now having to deal with the creepy goings on that came with the children. Victoria once had a normal life before adopting the feral state in which she was found. Her journey is one of the most interesting as we see her struggle between the protection of MAMA, and her wanting a normal life again. On the flip side we have Lilly who wasn’t old enough to remember a normal life; all she remembers is her animal-like upbringing and MAMA. We are even given the view point of MAMA herself, giving an otherwise evil phantom figure a back story that in some sort of way you can relate to. The different layers of this film not only make it enjoyable but also offer a high re-watch-ability rate.
MAMA herself is also everything that can possibly unnerve you all rolled into one horrible creature! From over-extended limbs to horrible creaking noises, to unnatural movements and spider walks, MAMA is absolutely terrifying. Huge props have to be given to special effects supervisor Aaron Weintraub who mixed live action prosthetic effects and heavy C.G.I. Aside from Weintraub we also have the French contortionist Javier Botet who actually became MAMA. His movements and general size really helped solidify the terrifying looks and movements of MAMA.
Mama sports a cast led by Jessica Chastain as Annabel. She did the best she could portraying a punk rock musician, complete with designer ripped jeans and hot topic band shirt (sorry, as a metal head we notice when someone is faking it!), however her transformation from discomfort with children too full on paternal mode was very gripping. The true breakout stars in this film were the little girls themselves. Megan Charpentier, who played Victoria, was amazing. The inner turmoil between what she was and what she is trying to become really hits you in the feels. Her performance garnered a nomination for Best Leading Young Actress at the Young Artist Awards. Isabelle Nellise, who portrays Lilly, was also nominated for Best Supporting Young Actress at the same award show.
Mama is a criminally underrated horror film. It opened at number 1, and has grossed over $146,428,180 worldwide. It is also contributed with proving that horror films can be successful when not given the usual October release date, and enabling studios to confidently release horror movies throughout the year. It has been nominated for numerous awards, and yet it is rarely mentioned when we talk about modern horror. Solid performances, horrifying creature effects and a shocking, divisive and somewhat controversial ending definitely make this a must see film, so check it out!