Mama: Beware of Dark Spots on the Wall—Movie

What is Guillermo del Toro’s (and those who work with him) utter fascination with children and the walls that house them? Such is the case with “Mama.” Written by Neil Cross, Andrés Muschietti and Barbara Muschietti , directed by Andrés Muschietti and executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, “Mama” is not overly scary (depending upon your scare threshold) , but it is creepily satisfying and entertaining.Mama

“Mama” is about two sisters, ages three and one when we first meet them. Among others, their mother has just been killed by their father. Early on after the murders, the father grabs the two girls from their city apartment and escapes with them into a deserted cabin in the suburban woods. There he kills himself, leaving the sisters to fend for themselves…or is there more? Mama? Since the girls’ disappearance, their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has had people looking for them and his patience is rewarded when five years later they are found in the cabin, more wild animal-like than human. Following some therapy, the sisters go to live with their uncle and his rocker girlfriend (Jessica Chastain) both of  whom have been granted custody of the siblings.  But then what? Who did take care of the girls in the cabin? How did they survive? What do the butterflies, shadows, wall crumblings and black spots all mean?

Muschietti does an excellent job of combining psychological and visual terror…and that’s why “Mama” is so compelling. The two little girls–Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse are spectacular, especially Chapentier as the older sister. They actually make you care about them and that’s because these two are real actresses. It’s amazing, but true. Chastain, dark eye shadow and rocker-black hair looks and sounds very different from what we’re used to seeing.  She’s very good at portraying someone who’s not necessarily ready for motherhood, but finds herself caring in spite of herself.  In a dual role as murderous father and caring uncle, Coster-Waldau is very convincing as both men.

Is “Mama” for everyone? No. But it is definitely a cut-above most horror films. Now, if we can just break free from those walls.

2 ¾ nuggets out of 4

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