“Who’s Mama, Victoria?”
The trailer for Mama has been giving audiences goosebumps for the last couple of months now and for good reason too! The horror genre, for me, is the hardest thing to get right and to be done respectably and no matter which route you take in the film’s final moments you will be treading on eggshells left right and centre with every audience. I don’t think there is one ending to a horror film that everyone in an audience will just accept without someone exiting the screen while filling their face with the remaining scraps of popcorn and muttering something like ‘what a load of shite’ to whoever they are with. This is why reviewing a horror film is very much an opinion based thing, the key aspect of a scary film is for it to be, well… scary, this should be at the forefront throughout, its main objective if you will should be to scare its audience and then from there on it is all about the end, how can we wrap this story up and please as many people as possible… the Paranormal Activity francise seem to go down the route of killing off any characters that messed with the unknown throughout the film whereas other films like there to be a story behind the scares, a reason for why it is happening, Mama is one of these films and ends up stepping into very risky territory when it really hits the fan and boils down to the story behind Mama.
Mama offers the audience genuine scares mixed alongside a fairly basic backstory for the demon-like character of ‘Mama’ and some psychological horror but then also journeys into the bizarre along the way too (and not necessarily in the good way). I find it really hard to fault this film because for starters I did really enjoy it and even had to end up watching some through my fingers in a few superbly edited and choreographed scenes. The girls in the film who play feral sisters Victoria and Lily whom Mama takes for her own do an absolutely superb job in their roles supplying just the right amount of creepiness mixed with likability (in Victoria’s case). I don’t think I’ll ever know why it is that little girls in horror are just so damn creepy!
I’ve already said that Mama does offer the audience real scares and some of the scenes featuring the ghastly Mama character are both edge of your seat and pulse-pounding but also make you want to stand up and shout at the screen for Annabel to just look round a corner or in a room, in this respect it is so very well done. However, there are some very peculiar things in Mama which I just can’t understand no matter how hard I try, and no, this isn’t the usual cliches of why the hell do the characters stay living where they are or go off alone to explore a creaky, old and obviously haunted house in the middle of a forest… at night, no the two things that I can’t understand involve the two main characters of Annabel (amateur rockstar who plays bass guitar because she is very edgy and cool and in that case different to this kind of genre so we instantly like her, no, by the end I did actually end up liking her) and cool uncle Lucas (who actually goes the opposite way to Annabel and makes you think less of him as the film goes on). In two scenes we see these characters in dream sequences, Lucas gets knocked down some stairs by Mama and ends up in hospital and has some kind of seizure leading him to see his now dead brother hanging around at a bridge where Mama’s haunted house is, so after seeing this Lucas goes and finds this bridge and hangs around in the woods around the area for a while… for no apparent reason. This doesn’t take the story anywhere apart from allowing him to take part in the final moments, because of him being hospitalised early on we don’t see him often enough to like him more than we probably should and so this sequence ends up making no sense whatsoever.
The second weird dream sequence is with Annabel when we see her dream of Mama’s backstory, if I remember correctly she hadn’t yet started her research on Mama so this came from nowhere and is damn-right weird to say the least unless it was Mama herself showing Annabel her life, which seems highly unlikely. It was a nice sequence with some good scares, however, it just didn’t make sense and again could have been done without it and no progress to the conclusion would have been lost, I’m sure they could have worked her backstory in some other way like when she was reading Mama’s notes they could have worked it in.
Now, the end, where the money and reviews are won and lost, and of course this is all about taste and how you have felt the film has gone beforehand. If you haven’t seen the film don’t read this segment because I will talk about what happens in some detail… So we see all the main characters atop the cliff where Mama originally lept off with her baby to her death and obviously, I guess, Mama is looking for closure and that is why she is still haunting the earth and because of this and the fact we end up seeing too much of her on screen so the scare-effect runs out we kind of start to feel for her character and even feel sorry for her but at the same time want there to be a resolution where she doesn’t take the sisters’ lives with her own. The end is bizarre it has to be said because we see Lily taken by Mama by choice to her death as they jump from the cliff and Victoria stays. Annabel’s reaction for first is strange because she doesn’t seem to care she only managed to save one of the sisters and doesn’t even seem to shed a tear while Victoria sobs. The way Annabel dies seemingly 4-5 times in her last battle is a bit of an ‘oh come on’ moment but we’ll forgive it just because I can’t be bothered to complain about it. Personally I kind of liked the ending in a guilty pleasure kind of way, it wrapped it up and gave everyone everything as there was clearly no way in helping Lily in reality who had really grown up with Mama not knowing of another life, it was a little sad if a bit rushed but I do like a little back story of sorts in horror films… a little like The Woman in Black does effectively.
The last scene we see a butterfly land on Victoria much like Moths surrounded the sisters while Mama looked over them but I hope they don’t make a pointless sequel to this because they wouldn’t realistically be able to do anything different in a sequel to the extent they did so well in this feature. From the start of the film it felt like a ‘good horror’ and really is solid throughout from acting to the story itself. The ending is what will help people to make their minds up if they like it or not but I don’t think you can take much away from the main arc itself.