movie reviews

Movie Review – Mama (2013)

Today I’m talking about Mama. This one isn’t on Netflix – actually, I wasn’t even going to review it, but I wanted to watch it so I rented it from Amazon and thought it might make for an entertaining review. Like most movies I’ve reviewed so far, this isn’t my first viewing of the movie, but I did find myself looking at things a little more critically, even though I hadn’t started watching with the intent to review. Despite all that, it’s earned itself 4 stars though: Actually Enjoyable. It had some flaws, but overall, a strong story and some legitimate creeps.

**I’m going to start doing something new in my reviews. The first part will continue to be a fairly spoiler-free experience. In the end, though, I’ll be adding a new section for “Final Thoughts” which will contain spoilers and my thoughts on the entire movie as a whole. So if you haven’t seen this movie and you don’t want it ruined for you, don’t read that.**

The story begins when some businessman has some kind of mental break and kills his wife, I believe. Then he kidnaps his children, crashes a car, and walks with them out into the woods? They walk for a while before finding an abandoned cabin, which the father decides is a good place to stay for the night. The house is already occupied by the spirit, who we only know as MaMa through most of the movie, who secretively kills the father, and decides to take care of the two little girls.

Flash forward five years later, and the girls are found because for some reason five years later they’re still looking for these children. They’re found, and the kids’ uncle is called to the psychiatric facility (?) that the girls are being held at since they’re basically feral and need constant care to be reacclimated into the world. The uncle says he’ll take them, and to keep them from moving in with their aunt, one of the girls’ doctors gives Luke – the uncle – a house where they’ve run case studies or something.

The beginning almost seems plausible when you watch it, but giving it a second of thought after the fact. It makes me doubt everyone’s involvement. The doctor just seems too invested in wanting Luke to have the kids, as opposed to them going with their aunt, and presumably far enough away that the psychiatrist won’t be able to monitor the girls after all. Of course, after learning some of the chilling things he learns, it seems strange that he doesn’t almost encourage them to either leave or give the kids over. Since we never learn whether Mama was tied to a specific location, as a spirit or ghost or whatever she was, distance might have solved the entire problem.

Annabelle, Luke’s girlfriend, is actually a lot of my problem with this movie. She likes being a free spirit who plays bass in a rock band, and she’s resentful that she’s thrown into the role of ‘mother.’  I understand that she’s not maternal, but the way she treats these children, who as far as she knows have been ABANDONED in a cabin for years is simply cruel. Luke is injured/hospitalized early on by Mama, who followed the children to their new home, leaving Annabelle as their only caretaker. She complains about this when she sees Luke in the hospital, right in earshot of the children.

I had a really hard time trying to figure out exactly what Mama’s end goal was. For a while, I thought she just wanted to kill everyone keeping her from the girls, who she viewed as her own children. At one point, I was nearly convinced that Mama actually wanted to possess Annabelle, so she could, in fact, end up as the girl’s ‘mother’ in the real world. I never really get an answer to this question, which I both liked and didn’t like, but the ending sort of destroyed the theory a bit.

So one of these kids, Victoria, the older one, who sort of remembers life without Mama more than the younger sibling (Lily), she’s almost the catalyst to this whole fiasco. She rejects Mama, which obviously upsets her. I mean, really, it’s Mama’s possessiveness and not Victoria that’s the issue, but sometimes it can be hard to see the difference, especially since the psychologist who helped the girls reacclimate to ‘normal’ life has a theory that Mama is just a ‘part’ of Victoria and spends some of the early movie all but blaming her for what’s happening.

There’s almost no part of this movie that has Annabelle doing any more than the bare minimum for these children, and yet somehow, Victoria tells Annabelle “I love you.” While this was a necessary plot point, since it upsets Mama/makes her jealous, but it feels so out of place because Annabelle has done absolutely nothing to show these kids that she gives a damn about them.

I feel like a lot of this movie, this climax, could have been avoided if any of the characters had simply SPOKEN to each other. If Annabelle had talked to Luke about what was going on, if the psychiatrist had spoken to Annabelle or Luke, if Luke had made a damn phone call to his girlfriend before checking himself out of the hospital and heading to the place he was told to go in a fever dream. A classic lack of communication about the weird things happening was nearly everyone’s downfall.

Final Thoughts

I both really liked, and also didn’t like the ending of the movie. While I could appreciate the movie really TRYING to turn Annabelle into a good maternal figure (that seems to be the point of the movie), the movie does a bad job of actually showing that change in Annabelle, which leaves us at the end trying to process how and when all these changes took place. Maybe I missed a ton of subtext, but all I saw was Annabelle doing a complete 180.

I did like that giving Mama her own child back wasn’t enough for her. While it should have been, and it almost was, I actually enjoyed the fact that the one kid, Lily, didn’t know what life was like without Mama and wasn’t ready to let her go.

I can’t imagine that anything that happened will bode well for Victoria being left with Annabelle and Luke, though, just given what’s happened and the fact that there’s pretty much no good logical explanation for all of it.

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