Review: ‘Mama’ is traditional horror film, saved by characters

Ryan Morris

Editor’s Note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

“Mama,” a newly released horror film directed by Andrés Muschietti, came to theaters January 2013, staring Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster Waldau.

This film is unique in the sense that it manages to follow the rules of a traditional horror film, but is also able to include a few surprises along the way.


Without revealing the entire plotline, “Mama” begins when two little girls are abandoned in the woods and then remain lost there for five years.

During that time, they are adopted and cared for by a tortured spirit who they call Mama.

When rescued and taken to live with their uncle, Mama comes along with them.

Chastain assumes the role of Annabel, Uncle Lucas’s girlfriend and rock star hero, complete with tattooed arms and band T-shirts. She unwillingly accepts taking charge of the girls’ care when Mama sends Lucas plummeting down the stairs and into a coma.

Prior to this, her hesitance at becoming a mother can be seen in her relief of having a negative pregnancy test. Looking at her, one would never think of Annabel as mother material, but she truly steps up to the plate and takes matters into her own hands.

What is surprising about Annabel is that she is an extremely strong female character. Most other female characters in horror movies assume the role of a damsel in distress and flounder around helplessly until they either die or are saved by some outside force.

In this case, the male lead is made to be helpless and weak while Annabel is left to fend for both herself and the girls.

Annabel does not disguise her growing curiosity about Mama, but she does not always decide to pursue her.

The moments when she chooses not to give in to her curiosity are perhaps the most suspenseful of the entire movie, simply because the audience is waiting for something that does not happen.

Like many horror movies, this one could be considered quite predicable. The music and the camera angles are all typical, and most of the supposed suspenseful moments could be foreseen based on knowledge of past horror films.

However, this film does manage to successfully convey terror throughout. One of the reasons for this is that Mama is not fully seen until close to the end.

For most of the movie she is elusive, confined to shadows and only hinted at. Once she reveals herself completely, the movie loses some of the horror appeal.

Mama also possesses a semblance to humanity and this can be seen especially towards the end, but, like the beginning, the end can be considered rather difficult to understand.

Despite several minor plot holes, the strength of characters is what sets this apart and makes it worth watching.

Rating: Three out of four stars.

Story: CHELLA MCLELLAND, Intern A&E Reporter