“Mama” is the newest psychological horror movie to hit theaters, and for the most part, it lives up to the expectations the public has for the genre.
The story revolves around the changing lives of two girls, Victoria and Lilly. Their father goes insane and kills some of his coworkers and his wife, then takes his two girls and makes a run for it. The group of runaways discovers an abandoned cabin in the middle of the woods, but the father doesn’t make it through the night, and the two girls are left alone. Five years later, they are discovered living on cherries, scampering around like animals and barely able to speak. Victoria and Lilly are given to their uncle Lucas and his girlfriend, Annabel, who searched for them for years. They move into a new house so the girls can be studied and helped by a child psychologist.
It is soon discovered that the girls are not the only ones to come home with Lucas and Annabel. A ghostly woman who the girls call “Mama” has kept her protective interest in the girls and is jealous of any competition in the girls’ lives. Lucas is soon injured and taken to the hospital, and it is up to Annabel to protect herself and learn how to connect with these sinister siblings. While Mama fights with Lucas and Annabel for the girls’ affection, the girls must choose between them.
“Mama” does not have any music and contains very little dialogue, so there is a lot of room for the creepy, silent horror.
Producer Guillermo del Toro and director Andres Muschietti work hard to incorporate the fear into the story through the distorted figure of Mama. It does not always work, and at times the ghost of Mama seems to dominate the screen instead of suddenly appearing to give the jolt of horror needed. By the end of the film, the vision of Mama is so natural that the horror is no longer there. As the girls make final decisions about family and the power of love, the terror has gone out of the film, and it becomes more of a drama than a psychological thriller.
Yet despite all this, “Mama” could be one of the best horror movies of this year. The creepy cherry-and-moth-eating sisters are enough to lay a solid foundation of horror, and “Mama” carries that drama until the end.