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  Mama Mommy Fearest
Year: 2013
Director: Andy Muschietti
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, Jane Moffat, Morgan McGarry, David Fox, Dominic Cuzzocrea, Christopher Marren, Julia Chantrey, Ray Kahnert, Diane Gordon, Matthew Edison
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Five years ago, Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) killed his bosses at work, then returned home to kill his wife. He then took his two young daughters and packed them into the car, driving off to escape the police onto the icy roads outwith the city, as the snow was beginning to fall. His eldest Victoria was asking questions he could not answer, and became alarmed as he drove faster and faster, with good reason as the car left the road, went over an embankment and came to rest in among the trees. They were largely unhurt, but Jeffrey dragged the girls towards a cabin he found, where he planned to put an end to his crimes...

Ah, but someone - or something - puts an end to him, just as he is about to pull the trigger, for which we should be thankful, except the filmmakers evidently had no qualms about placing the children in more danger of a similarly life-threatening type for the rest of the movie. That was just one problem many had with Mama, a horror movie not written or directed but produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who had proven himself with an interesting track record of fantasy cinema, though when he wasn't at the helm the results could be a shade less successful, if not more. This Spanish-Canadian production was one of those.

Setting itself up as a modern day fairytale, apparently so it could dodge all the accusations that there were far too many illogicalities for its own good, the concept of the wicked stepmother was altered to make her the children's dedicated guardian, even as she jealously guards them from outside assistance. Jeffrey's twin brother Luke (also Coster-Waldau) has spent the last half decade searching for any sign of either his sibling or his nieces, never giving up on the chance they might still be alive, and losing most of his finances in the process. But one day, his prayers are answered, though why Mama deigned to allow the girls to be found is one of a number of loose ends.

Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) are feral children by now, a curious phenomenon where infants are raised by animals in out of the way wildernesses, adopting their behaviour. Except they haven't been nurtured by wolves, they've been looked after by the mysterious spirit of Mama, and now they have been taken away from her when hunters discover her magic cabin (again, no explanation for that) she begins to haunt Luke's home where he is looking after the girls, in spite of his aunt demanding custody. She might have a point, because his partner is Annabel (Jessica Chastain), first seen delighted that her preganncy test is showing negative.

So really this wasn't so much about the kids and what was best for them, it was about Annabel and how she would grow to accept her maternal instincts thanks to close proximity to Victoria and Lilly, another inversion of the wicked stepmother cliché. Not that she is especially evil, just self-centred as we are supposed to believe any woman who doesn't want a baby is in popular fiction such as this, a line that some may find much to quibble with, but here is merely part of the narrative that sees the children needing protection from the entity which saved them and cared for them for five years. To say this had a muddled attitude towards parenting was an understatement, but what most people would want was a decent amount of jumps, although when they took exactly the same form of a quiet patch followed by a loud, percussive noise as Mama suddenly looms into view, it didn't half get repetitive. Director Andy Muschietti and his sister Barbara expanded their short for this, but the strain did show, and the longer it went on the more chance you had to criticise it. Music by Fernando Velázquez.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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