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Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years.... but how alone were they?
For more about Mama and the Mama Blu-ray release, see Mama Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 26, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, David Fox
Director: Andrés Muschietti
» See full cast & crew
Mama Blu-ray Review
"A ghost is an emotion bent out of shape, condemned to repeat itself time and time again..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 26, 2013
All too effective when its beastie is lurking in the darkness, all too conventional when it finally lurches into the light, Mama is horror at its most unsettling and, unfortunately, at its most familiar. Based on director/co-writer Andrés Muschietti and producer/co-writer Barbara Muschietti's own four-minute Spanish-language short film of the same name, it reinvents and refines the genre for a time, then, all at once, follows the path forged by just about every other ghostly haunting genre pic before it. It's easy to see what drew Guillermo del Toro to the Muschietti siblings and their style, though, and the film isn't with its share of chills, thrills and eerie things that go bump in the night. Nor is it without a number of terrific performances, as Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain, Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and young Megan Charpentier and little Isabelle Nélisse are sometimes all that prevent Mama from plunging off a cliff.
After murdering his wife, an unhinged father of two (Coster-Waldau, Oblivion, Headhunters) flees the scene with his toddler and infant daughters, taking them to a remote cabin in the woods. There, he makes the decision to murder his children before committing suicide; a tragedy that's averted when a vengeful spirit intervenes, killing the man and sparing his daughters. Five long years pass. Raised by the creature in total seclusion, Victoria (Charpentier), now eight, and Lily (Nélisse), now six, are found, wild and malnourished, and returned to civilization. Custody is granted to the girl's uncle, Lucas (also played by Coster-Waldau), and his girlfriend, Annabel (Chastain, Tree of Life, The Help), providing Victoria and Lily continue to be seen by Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash, Aliens, Lucky Number Slevin), the psychiatrist treating the children for their trauma. But Lucas, Annabel and the good doctor aren't the only ones keeping watch over the girls. It seems something Victoria and Lily refer to as "Mama" (Javier Botet, The Last Circus, [Rec]) has followed them home.
In horror, knowledge is power, for the characters and the audience. With power comes a sense of control, and with control comes a sense of safety. As understanding of a movie monster increases, fear of that monster decreases.Had the Muschiettis resisted the urge to reveal Mama's origin, or even to detail it at such lengths, the film would have been a more sinewy, disturbing frightfest with a truly memorable and unsettling movie monster; one acting on pure, unbridled impulse and rage, without the comfortable blanket of a backstory or the warmth of tiresome exposition. Maternal instincts need little explanation, and defining them only cheapens the creature's resolve. We don't need to know why Mama has grafted herself onto the girls, just that she has. (She was once a loving mother. They're cute-as-a-button orphans who were nearly murdered by their maniac father. The story tells itself.) How do you stop something you can't comprehend? How do you save two children from a force of motherly nature? That's where Mama would have graduated from decent genre pic to terrifying classic. That's where a genuinely scary short becomes a genuinely scary feature film, free of routine filler and full of chilling ambiguity.
That's just one remedy. I'm sure there are others, although most will start and end with the Muschiettis' script. The brother-sister duo at least nail the look and atmosphere Mama requires, thanks to a command of tone and the combined efforts of cinematographer Antonio Riestra, editor Michelle Conroi and award-winning Orphanage composer Fernando Velázquez. The visual effects -- two parts practical, one part computer-generated -- certainly help, hit or miss as they can sometimes be, and the film's satisfying first act makes it easier to forgive the missteps that follow. And then there's Botet, a lanky spider of a man whose incredible physicality and movements so defy reality that it's difficult to tell where Botet and his limbs begin and the film's CG wizardry ends. He's a walking special effect, and his presence makes an impression that isn't soon forgotten.
But it's Botet's co-stars who really sell the story. Chastain isn't afraid to allow Annabel to grow frustrated or fail, to the point of being a bit unlikable early on. She also isn't afraid to be afraid, and it's that palpable fear (not to mention the shakable love that narrowly overcomes that fear) that's so vulnerable and human. Coster-Waldau is strong in his dual roles as well, even if the first amounts to a few minutes of screentime and the second hinges on Chastain's performance. Still, keep your eye on dear Jamie Lannister. Coster-Waldau will be popping up in more and more high profile films in the coming years, and I can't wait. Charpentier and Nélisse are excellent too, augmenting their creepy-crawly digital doubles perfectly. There isn't a single precocious kid trope to be had, and the two young actresses are all too convincing, upping the ante with each passing scene.
Somewhere, not so deep in the shadows of Mama, is a deadly slice of haunted house horror coiled like a snake, ready to strike. It reveals itself often enough to keep things interesting, and it's in these disquieting, unnerving moments that the film flashes its true potential. Had the Muschiettis found a way to be as efficient in 100-minutes as they were in four, Mama would be horror at its finest. A dark, surprisingly complex emotional ending comes close to redeeming every miscue, thankfully, and almost lifts the entire film out of its middle-act mire. Almost.
Mama Blu-ray, Video Quality
The only issue that haunts Universal's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer? A few ghastly edge halos and some rather unforgiving crush. Each instance, though, was also present in the film's theatrical presentation, meaning neither one is a product of the encode at all, but rather the source. Everything is faithful to a fault, and Mama looks exactly as it should. Antonio Riestra's earthy, stormcast palette is beautiful in its own dilapidated way, fleshtones are quite lovely and pleasantly saturated, primaries are suppressed but striking, and black levels are deep and foreboding. Contrast is dead on as well, and delineation is as inviting or secretive as it's meant to be. Detail is quite strong too, even when shadows swallow the foreground whole. Fine textures are well-resolved and notably filmic, edge definition is natural and (for the most part) clean, closeups are revealing, and grain is intact and unobtrusive. And the encode itself? Precise and proficient, without any aberrant noise or alarming macroblocking, banding or aliasing. All told, the presentation delivers and then some.
Mama Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mama's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is exactly what you want a horror film's lossless audio mix to be: subtle, seductive and subdued, and then -- after a slow, torturous crescendo of sonic-driven suspense -- powerful, frightening and potent. The LFE channel is a deadly predator, ever on the prowl and primed to pounce the moment a kill presents itself. The rear speakers follow suit, creating an enveloping, exceedingly effective hunting ground of a soundfield, complete with convincing ambience, immersive acoustics, eerie cross-channel pans and jarring directional effects. Dialogue remains clear and well-prioritized throughout, with only a few whispers from Victoria and Lily slipping beneath the soundscape. Even then, it almost makes their hushed conversations with their ghostly guardian that much more unnerving.
Mama Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mama Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Does Mama have its share of scares? Absolutely. Is it an effective horror pic? Sure, but only to an extent. For all the unsettling promises it makes in its opening act, the film eventually clings to genre convention and refuses to let go, sometimes to its detriment. It isn't a failure, particularly considering the strength of its ending; it simply fails to live up to its full potential and its actors' performances. Fortunately, Universal's Blu-ray release is much more effective. With an excellent video transfer, terrificly terrifying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and a solid selection of extras, it's one that deserves consideration. At the very least, be sure to give it a rent. It's more than possible you'll find the film to be more chilling and compelling than I did.
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Mama Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: May 7-14 - May 5, 2013
For the week of May 7th, Paramount Home Media Entertainment is bringing Jack Reacher to Blu-ray. The film is actually an adaptation of Lee Child's novel One Shot, and fans took great exception with director Chris McQuarrie's decision to cast Tom Cruise as the ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: Mama - May 4, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Universal Home Entertainment are offering five members a chance to win a copy of producer Guillermo del Tor and filmmakers Andrés and Barbara Muschietti's Mama, which stars Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Mama streets on May 7th.
• Mama Blu-ray - March 5, 2013
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced and detailed the Blu-ray release of executive producer Guillermo del Toro and director Andy Muschietti's Mama, starring Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones). The well-received ...
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