It might only be the third weekend of January, but the new horror flick Mama is already in the running for worst film of the year. These type of children obsessed ghost stories (dating back to The Ring) are a dime a dozen, and they are usually awful but harmless. Mama, on the other hand, refuses to rest on its clichéd laurels, and instead defies all logic and genre conventions to deliver not one, but two, overly convoluted (and downright stupid) back-stories to explain its improbable tale. Which isn’t to say the film (if it can even be called a film) doesn’t shove every cliché down our throat from the creepy kid (times two!) to the insane-for-no-reason-other-than-the-plot-mother to the weird-noise-making-bending-backwards-ghost.
SPOILERS AHEAD!!! But really, who cares? The only warning you need is: DON’T SEE MAMA!
Once upon a time…(Mama tells us) there was some guy (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in two underwritten nonsensical roles) who goes on a rampage shooting people because of the stock market crash of 2008, kidnaps his toddler daughters and manages to run away into the wild woods of Virginia and find a cabin that just so happens to be the stomping ground of a very pissed off ghost (who we later learn through her own convoluted back-story is eternally searching for her baby daughter she jumped off a cliff with). After dispensing of him, Mama (looking like some reject from The Grudge), takes care of the little girls for the next five years feeding them cherries and bugs (naturally – I heard this is the new fad diet).
Alas, for those same five years, said dead shooter guy’s brother (also Nickolaj Coster-Waldau and also still terrible) has been on a search to find the girls…and lo and behold, as luck would have it, two bozos find the little dickens hiding out in the cabin. Lucky for us, dead shooter guy’s brother has a bodacious girlfriend (Jessica Chastain, completely unconvincing as a punk rock chick, and proving yet again that even the best actresses are only as good as the material they are given) who reluctantly agrees to take in the wild feral girls and raise them under the watch of…dun dun dun…The Instititute (you know, because every town has one and they are all willing to put up makeshift dysfunctional families in nice fancy houses to observe them). But of course, that old Mama isn’t going to rest and plans to make spooky-spooky.
Along the way there’s the bitchy-for-no-reason-meddling-aunt-you-know-is-gonna-get-it and the skeptic-psychologist-who-turns-believer at the flick of a switch after talking to the classic-ghost-expert-librarian. Yes, there are 100 year-old dead babies kept in shoeboxes (isn’t that how they store all dead babies in Virginia?), giant mutant moth/butterflies (that seem to exist only because some moron thought it would be soooo cool), and a ghost that can contort itself and move through walls but can only successfully kill secondary characters (how convenient).
Mama, with its god-awful and completely arbitrary script is directed with a complete lack of imagination by Andres Muschietti, who as co-writer decides to end the film with what I believe may be the first ever on-screen five year-old girl suicide (trust me, as with everything in Mama, it’s much more complicated than how I just described). The film is “presented by” Guillermo Del Toro (whose own upcoming Pacific Rim was previewed in total kick-ass format before Mama), an uber talented guy who will apparently now lend his name to any piece of shit that comes down the pike.
Bottom line: Muschietti shouldn’t be allowed near a script ever again, Del Toro should be ashamed to have his name attached to such dreck, Chastain needs to learn to say no to some scripts and Mama is one film you don’t want to see. Trust me, it’s the pits…the cherry pits.
Written by David H. Schleicher