Mama has gotten more press than your average horror film, thanks more to its cast than anything else. The film, directed by Argentinean Andrés Muschietti and “presented by” Guillermo del Toro, concerns two young girls found in the woods five years after their disappearance and their foster parents, Kingslayer (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bin-Laden-slayer (Jessica Chastain).
The plot is bare bones, but has just enough meat to it to keep the horror stuff interesting. The atmosphere is suitably creepy (aided by a spare, desaturated palette… not so much the overbearing, unsubtle soundtrack). Chastain is great, even if she’s never going to receive an Oscar nomination for this sort of work.
Mama trades on J-horror mainstays of creepy kids and gothic ghosts and has some clever set-ups for scares: my personal favourite was its innovative use of a camera flash to heighten suspense. Unfortunately these effective scares are diluted by too many predictable and underwhelming jump scares.
I’d recommend the film to anyone who enjoys a good ghost story. It’s far from perfect – the storyline came so close to avoiding the requisite third act stumble, but seemingly forgets that Coster-Waldau’s character exists – but is nonetheless a good execution of a classic formula.