Film Mama comes from first time feature film Director Andrés Muschietti and manages to cleverly unravel the mystery behind the sinister presence haunting two young girls, Victoria and Lily (Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse).
After a father murders his wife and abducts his two children, he intentionally ploughs his car off the side of a cliff but survives. Panicked and disappointed by his attempt, he takes his two children through the wilderness of a forest and stumbles across a derelict cabin. Now inside the cabin and fraught with inner turmoil, he tries to coax his five year old daughter Victoria to kill him. Unfortunately for him something in the cabin disapproves and kills him instead.
Five years on, and with the help of private detectives…and minimal finance, Victoria and Lily’s Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) finally locates them…in the derelict cabin. The children are rescued but show signs of social abnormality and severe traits of isolation. The children are traumatised and are kept in a special hospital unit.
Psychologist Dr Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) gives Lucas and goth-rocker girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) access to the children, providing they live in a house linked with Dr Dreyfuss’ practice so he can use the girls in his studies.
Now settled, Annabel is unnerved to see the full extent of the girls’ animalistic and alarmingly secretive behaviour. She is also bemused by the girls’ fixation with a mysterious ghost called Mama and the creepy chaos that follows.
Derived from Spanish short film of the same name (2008), Mama is original in its narrative, retaining an honest balance between the reality of everyday life and the supernatural. Performances by child actors Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse are truly disturbing. Muschietti manages to convey the tragic nature of childhood trauma. The supernatural is a small part in a story that is about a mother losing her child and therefore her will to live.
Suicide is a strong theme throughout this film and muted tones work beautifully in the cinematography bringing forth a bleakness often associated with the end of life.
Mama certainly has the Guillermo del Toro stamp, as the film transforms into an enchanted fairy tale horror, rather than an outright nail-biter. The witch-like ghost was similar in form to Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, with the movement of Sadako Yamamura in Ringu.
This is a chilling tale about the fear of leaving life without the ones we love.