Guillermo Del Toro has really established himself as the horror genre’s godfather. He has only directed a handful of movies, although they have all been greatly influential. But he has become a prolific producer and helped many smaller horror films find their audience by believing in them and lending his expertise and name to them. The latest film he has executive produced is Mama from first time director Andrés Muschietti based on his own short film.
Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) were taken into the woods by their father after he murdered his wife. Stranded in a remote cabin, their father Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) decides he will take their lives then his own. But before he can do so he is taken by an unseen force in the woods. Victoria and Lilly remain in the cabin and learn to survive with some help from something they call Mama. After five years they are found and returned to the custody of their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Jeffrey’s brother. Along with Lucas’s girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), they try to get the girls used to a regular life again. The problem is that it seems Mama has come with them and may not want to let go of her girls.
Mama is a throwback to classic ghost stories and a highly effective film. Muschietti’s direction is superb; especially considering it is his first feature film. The film is beautiful to look at and is chock full of amazing performances to boot. Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones is excellent as the two brothers, giving real heart to the man who will stop at nothing to care for his brother’s daughters. Jessica Chastain is almost unrecognizable as the brunette pixie haired tattooed rocker that is reluctant to foster the kids, yet eventually joins the crusade to regain them from their past and from Mama. And the two little girls, they are just mind blowing. Charpentier is all old soul wisdom as the older sister who knows what is going on but is trying to balance the life with Mama with the life she wants to have. And little Isabelle Nélisse is incredible as the little sister that pretty much grew up in the woods with Mama as her parent figure. She is much more primal and portrays it with a very convincing authenticity. And huge props to director Muschietti, actor Javier Botet and their special effects team because Mama herself is one of the best screen monsters in years. She feels real, terrifying and sympathetic all at the same time. And she is horrifying to look at. Mama has got it all for the old school horror fans and I can’t wait for what Muschietti does next.
The Blu-ray from eOne is gorgeous. This film is drenched in shadows and it looks fantastic. Blacks are inky, colors are grungy but solid, clarity and detail are excellent and the sound field is damn unnerving. Great transfer, great film.
Available May 7, 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD.