Directed and Co-Written by Andy Muschietti
Having disappeared five years ago, two young girls are found mysteriously in a cabin in the woods. Now their uncle must contend with a supernatural being they affectionately refer to as Mama for their lives.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays the dual roles of the two brothers Lucas (the uncle of the children) and Jeffrey (the father of the children). You get the feeling Uncle Lewis genuinely cares about these children. After all he spent five years and most of his own money searching for his nieces and is now at the point of being all but broke.
The girlfriend character of Annabel (Jessica Chastain) comes off during the bulk of the film as not really liking the kids and even viewing them as a bit of an inconvenience. I am not sure the character even liked children in the context of the story. Near the beginning of the movie she is taking a pregnancy test and cheers when it comes back negative. This is in stark contrast to the end of the film where she is struggling to save the kids that mean so much to her. There was no moment in the film that showed her character switching from feeling the kids were a burden or not her responsibility or not wanting them to overflowing with material love for these children. It just kind of happened for the sake of the finale.
The girls’ maternal great-aunt Jean (Jane Moffat) shows up shortly after the girls are found and she takes Lucas to court to get custody of them which sets up the scenario for the newly formed family to be in a nice house with some really creepy woods behind it. The character is more of a hindrance than anything else. Her character could have been finished right then and there in the movie, but she shows up later for a visit that never occurs only to be killed off by Mama at the end.
Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) is a little more interesting. He starts out as a skeptic and becomes a believer but his move from skeptic to believer is just like a snap of the fingers. He is the more scientific mind, so he is the one that does the bulk of the investigating for the viewer. He makes the initial the discovery on what Mama is and not the two that are presumably the central characters. They get told in dreams and visions. Worse yet, he imparts very little of what he learns to the central characters. Nothing he does aids the central characters. He is there to tell a story to the viewers but not to actually help the plot.
Mama is more of a dark fantasy than a horror film. There are a few minor scares in it but nothing too big. The one thing that gets me is the ending. She gets the babies body back and starts mourning for her child (she had been substituting the two girls for her baby) and calms down until the youngest daughter calls out and then she goes back to monstrous again.
Normally getting back the body or the missing object or whatever the important thing is to the spirit will get rid of the entity in these movies but here it does not. She’s been searching for her baby for over a century and she gets the kid back and starts mourning and then when Lily (Isabelle Nélisse) is being pulled away she flips out and then tosses the body over the cliff where a century before she had killed herself and the child. This child had been important enough for the spirit to look for it for many decades until she found the replacement children. And that is fine. What the issue is is that suddenly her original kid got completely replaced after five years of her caring for another kid. She tosses the body away like a used snot rag and goes full Karen that got her fast food order screwed up. That seems to not really fit everything else. She spent ages obsessing over one thing and then it suddenly does not matter?
Visually the creature of mama looks very good. They made her look like it was a body in water which gave her a very frightening appearance. They even made it move like it was broken in places as you would expect a body falling from a great height to be.
Mama is an interesting concept and has some nice moments but, in the end, it does not quite hit the mark entirely. It’s an entertaining watch but you’ll find yourself going “Huh? That doesn’t make sense. Why would that character do that?” more often than not. You will get one good view out of it, but you may not go back again.