I probably should have looked into this a little more because this would have been much better following Crimson Peak since it’s got Guillermo del Toro as the executive producer and Jessica Chastain is back, albeit in a very different role. It was also surprising to me to see that this was only rated at a PG-13 given the level of spookitude present in the film.
Two children, Lily and Victoria, were kidnapped by their father and ended up getting stranded in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. They are there for 5 years and grow up feral with only “Mama” to take care of them. When they get found and taken in by their Uncle and his girlfriend, Mama comes along as well. Then it becomes a struggle of trying to raise these girls without incurring the wrath of the jealous spirit that looks over them.
The themes of family and motherhood especially are explored through the lens of horror. Not just ghosts but the horror of becoming a parent when you aren’t ready and don’t feel prepared. Jessica Chastain’s Annabelle is forced into the single mother role that she never wanted while contrasted against Mama, someone that always wanted to have a child but was never given the chance. While Mama might be frightful to look at, you can’t help but feel sorry for her and understanding of how the children would become attached to her.
There is no real blood or gore to speak of with most of the deaths or injuries either being off screen or not in focus. The movie also doesn’t rely too heavily on jump scares as it is always made very plainly clear when Mama is around. Instead, it does a great job of making you feel uneasy because you know that Mama is there. The atmospheric tension as character slowly come to realize the truth as well as the fear that Victoria has because she knows that Mama gets jealous makes the film scary even before you start getting into the ghost attacks.
I think this is a very good film overall and an excellent example of what a PG-13 horror movie can achieve. This is also a movie where I can’t help but wonder what happens after the credits roll. Not getting too into spoiler territory but there is no way the parents don’t end up in jail.
Score: 4.5 out of 5