The other day, my friend and I went to a matinee showing of Mama. We were the only two in that theatre and hopefully no one heard our screams. Mama has enough surprises and twists to land on my “keeper” list. This Spanish-Canadian horror film was directed by Andres Muschietti and is based on his Spanish language short film from 2008. Produced by J. Miles Dale, Barbara Muschietti and Guillermo Del Toro, this dark tale starts with the financial crash of 2008 and a crazed father (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) abducting his baby girls after killing his business partners and then his wife. Where is good old dad taking Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse)? All we know is that his hold on sanity is long gone, and the girls are at his mercy. After crashing his car, dad finds an abandoned cabin. The children are hungry, afraid, and Victoria is blind without her glasses. Daddy dearest decides to end his life, but first he must kill the girls. Why do people want company when they kill themselves? Dad points his gun at Victoria, but something interferes. Meet me after the jump.
Something (we only get quick glimpses) kills the father. But, the little girls are not alone. They are watched over and fed by someone who communicates with chirping and moaning sounds. Isolated from the rest of the world over a five year period, the children begin to regress into wild creatures.
Victoria and Lilly have not been forgotten by their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who has never given up searching for them. A search party finally locates the car, the cabin, and the girls. Victoria and Lilly, now exhibiting animalistic behavior, startle the search party by skittering to the top of the fridge. Apparently these guys have never dealt with a determined two year old and a cookie jar. The girls, under the care of Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash), reveal through drawings, how they survived in the woods; they call her Mama (Javier Botet). The doctor uncovers documented records on the true identity of Mama. Edith Brennan, (Hannah Cheesman) escaped from an asylum, stole her baby from the nuns at the orphanage, and jumps to her death.
Dr. Dreyfuss helps Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), a punk musician, get custody of the girls. The girls have a hard time interacting with their uncle and Annabel, who is dragged unwillingly into a mother’s role. Plus, something has followed the children. Who is it? Mama and she’s not a happy camper.
Victoria and Lilly not only deal with becoming civilized, but also sharing their affections with Lucas and Annabel. One night, Lucas is attacked by Mama (who is able to move through the walls) and lands in the hospital. The frightened Annabel has a vision about Mama and how she died. Victoria starts to bond with Annabel and refuses to join Lilly and Mama in play. Not good, Mama is pissed and wants a piece of Annabel.
We finally get to see the creature and she is horrifying. Bent, broken, and disfigured from that plunge off the cliff, Edith Brennan (unable to find her own baby) is determined to take her surrogate children to the grave with her. Dr. Dreyfuss, who has encountered Mama during one of Victoria’s sessions, has located the baby’s corpse. He heads to the cabin where the girls were found without telling anyone (don’t these people ever watch horror shows?) Annabel, on a visit to the doctor’s office, steals his files and the box containing the Mama’s baby. She is trying to protect the girls who have won her heart. Later that night, the jealous Mama attacks, but doesn’t kill Annabel. The maternal aunt (Jane Moffat), suspecting the children are being abused, breaks into the house and meets Mama, up close and personal. The aunt, now possessed by Mama, takes the children back to the cabin, with Annabel and Lucas close behind.
Annabel and Lucas return to the cabin only to find that the aunt and doctor are dead, and Mama and the children are dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. Annabel gives Mama the corpse of her dead child, and for a brief moment, Mama croons to her baby. But, when Lilly cries out for Mama’s attention, the ghost goes crazy. With Lucas unconscious and Annabel injured, Mama lures the girls to a certain death.
Annabel hangs on to Victoria as Mama takes Lilly with her over the cliff, but just as Mama and Lilly hit the rocks, they turn into a swarm of butterflies. While Annabel and Lucas hug Victoria, a butterfly lands on the child’s hand. Is it Lilly?
Jessica Chastain, Megan Charpentier and the great special effects and plot, made this a must see movie… but, I remain curious as to why, in most ghost movies, the people being haunted, seldom seek help in dealing with unwanted spirits. What would you do? Who would you call?