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Whisper It With Me……Mama January 17, 2013

Posted by Alichat in Life, Movies, Random.
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Tuesday night I attended a screening of Mama, Guillermo del Toro’s latest film opening this Friday.  Wait….scratch that.  It’s not a Guillermo del Toro movie.  Well, not totally.  And maybe that’s the problem.  While all the promos shout del Toro’s name leading you to assume he’s the director, he is really the executive producer.  The director (and co-writer along with his wife Barbara and writer Neil Cross) is Andrés Muschietti.  Mama is Muschietti’s full-length feature debut.  The film is an expansion (albeit slightly altered version) of his short film from 2008 familiarly titled Mamá.   His short film (and by short I mean 3 minutes long people!) was popular at European Film Festivals and caught the eye of del Toro, who announced in 2009 that he would help the Muschiettis develop it into a full length feature.  Kudos to del Toro for fostering new talent!

MAMA

At first, I couldn’t decide if the film may have been better served being directed by del Toro.  Granted his work is hit-or-miss (critical acclaim but so-so box office, or mediocre critical reviews but big box office,) but he almost got to do The Hobbit, and was considered to direct one of the Harry Potter films, so having him take the reins wouldn’t be a bad idea.  But in the end, I think it might be the fault of the studios.  The trailers give away too much. Pretty much the entire story…..except the ending. We’ll get to that.  The story centers around two small children, Victoria and Lilly, who go missing after the death of their mother.  They are found, five years later, feral and living in an old house in the woods. Taken in by their artist uncle, Lucas (Game of Throne‘s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau,) and musician aunt, Annabel (newly minted Golden Globe winner Jessica Chastain,) we soon discover that someone has come back with them from the woods.  The film is creepy and haunting, but I expected it to be a screamfest, along the lines of Paranormal Activity or heavy on the suspense like The Sixth Sense.  And while it did have its moments, the bulk of the film was quieter than I expected.  It’s very reminiscent of previous suspense/horror dramas, so that coupled with the informative trailer, and you pretty much knew what was going to happen.  There was a nice moment of a collective “uh uh” from the audience, as Annabel did the girl-in-a-scary movie thing and walked toward the ominous closet containing the oogity boogity.  And at one point, the woman next to me, who had announced when I sat down that she may grab my arm some time during the film, grabbed her friend’s arm and loudly stated “Aw hell naw.”  This prompted Abby to turn to me and say “I’m sorry…I know you hate talking……but I’m with her!”  So there are some eerie and tense moments.  There were also a few stupid human moments that are standards of a horror movie. For example, a character wandering into the dark, scary place, without a flashlight, alone, thinking nothing bad will happen to him.  The one thing that did surprise me was the ending.  Granted my idea of what was going to happen altered about three times in the last 20 minutes, it still didn’t end exactly as I had expected.  That was a nice surprise.  Of course, not everyone was okay with the ending, as one woman stood up shortly after the lights came up and loudly said “Really? What was that?”

I am still on the fence about this film.  Well actually, I’m rather sliding off the fence, but half my butt is still on the fence, and one foot is touching the “go see it” side of the yard.  I was entertained and somewhat intrigued by the story.  It is visually creepy and unsettling, but I was disappointed at how I easily anticipated the scary moments. I wanted my heart to race.  While it is a horror/suspense film, Muschietti fleshes out a story for the creepy entity to give heart and depth to the film.  And it works because he put the bulk of the film in the capable hands of Jessica Chastain.  There is one moment where the CG looks wrong, where a character looks like they stepped out of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and into this film, but otherwise the effects were well done and spooky.   There are also moments that are very well staged, like Lilly’s game of blanket tug-of-war, that do make you gasp.   Kudos should be given to the young actors who portrayed Victoria and Lilly, Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse respectively, who do a great job of being cute and sweet one moment, and strange and chilling the next.  All in all it was well done for a feature debut.  One thing I did take from the film was its addictive catchphrase which I tortured Abby with on the drive home.  Whisper it with me……mama!

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