Even a few creepy moments and the casting of my current movie crush, Jessica Chastain, can’t save “Mama.” Despite an intriguing premise and a few scenes that work really well, this is one of those horror films that get sillier as they go along.
Directed by Andres Muschietti (he also is credited as a co-writer), “Mama” begins with two girls (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse) stranded in a forest, protected by someone or something for five years.
They are finally discovered and brought back to civilization, where they are placed in the care of their uncle Luke (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his wife, Annabel (Chastain).
Annabel isn’t as enamored with the idea of raising the two children, but she reluctantly agrees. At first her concerns are more about whether she’s really ready to be a mother, but when things start to take a turn toward the supernatural her worries shift to fear for the safety of everyone involved.
Muschietti originally conceived “Mama” as a short, which got the backing of Guillermo del Toro (who serves as executive producer). There is a bit of macabre fairy tale that del Toro has perfected here, but this is a premise that can’t sustain a feature length film.
“Mama” quickly turns into a series of contrived moments, with everyone involved getting dumber as the movie progresses. It’s fine to expect an audience to suspend disbelief, but when the plot holes are the size of craters, it’s just too much to ask.
The worst perpetrator of stupidity is a child psychiatrist played by Daniel Kash. He may well be the worst shrink in movie history, or at least the one person who has never seen a horror film.
The other problem with “Mama” is that the film plays its hand way too early. Once the who or what followed these girls is revealed, the movie quickly goes downhill.
To her credit, Chastain brings a bit of respectability to the whole production, showing her range as an actress even when the material is subpar. But even Chastain is asked to do things that will have audiences shaking their heads.
“Mama” isn’t as bad as some recent horror films, but it doesn’t quite measure up to recent releases “The Possession” (now available on DVD) and “Sinister.”
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “End of Watch” (B), which uses the found footage genre to create a gritty and compelling police drama.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena play Brian and Mike, police officers in Los Angeles who are partners and friends.
Mike has just married his high school sweetheart (Natalie Martinez) and is about to start a family. Brian is involved in a relationship with Janet (Anna Kendrick).
When what seems like a routine call uncovers something larger, Mike and Brian become the target of a cartel – putting their lives and everyone they know in danger.
“End of Watch” was written and directed by David Ayer, who also wrote “Training Day.” Ayer has a good eye for police procedures, creating a film that feels authentic. Ayer also does a good job of keeping the audience guessing. This is a movie that I was certain was headed toward a predictable ending, but I was completely surprised by the finish.
Gyllenhaal and Pena have good chemistry, while Kendrick does well in a role a bit darker than her bubbly persona.
“End of Watch” is rated R for strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references and some drug use and is now available on DVD.