Mama is a new film that was presented/produced by Guillermo del Toro after he saw the very short film on which this feature is based; he did not direct it. I feel like a lot of audiences are confused by that title. You can’t imagine how many people I’ve come across that just swear that The Orphanage (El Orfanato) and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (which at least del Toro did write) were both directed by del Toro. I’m not sure I like this tactic by production companies because I feel it is somewhat dishonest and misleading and I can’t really blame anyone for being confused.
Anyway, the film is engaging enough but certainly nothing special. I was incredibly distracted by Jessica Chastain with dark, cropped hair acting very punk. It seemed a bridge too far from her, and if you’ve even seen the trailer, you will see what I mean about this being a big stretch.
The film is vaguely reminiscent of a 2003 horror film about the tooth fairy called Darkness Falls. This is not a complimentary comparison. Hate horror films or mysteries that fall apart in the third act? You’ll want to take pass on this one.
The cinematography and lighting was absolutely terrible. I think it was so purposefully dark so you could put yourself in the protag’s shoes and feel scared in a dark room. However, it was so darkly shot in several scenes that you couldn’t tell what was going on. On at least four occasions, I had to rewind the scene a bit to see what scary event happened because it was just too dark (think Alien v. Predator 2, if someone made you watch that at knifepoint). At times I felt I was only listening to certain scenes and it really took the “oomph” out of what were supposed to be some of the stronger and scariest sequences.
A cool bonus on the DVD was the entire short film on which this feature was based. del Toro introduces the short and there is also optional commentary available.
The DVD cover is a good indication of the darkness levels in the movie actually. Until I actually had the DVD in hand, I thought the little girl on the cover is holding onto a wooden door (spoiler alert: she’s not).
While I’ve seen worse, this is not a cogent enough film for me to recommend.