When I heard Guillermo Del Toro was serving as executive producer for this film, I just had to see it. Del Toro is one of my favorite directors, and my love for foreign film stems from having watched Pan’s Labyrinth God-knows-how many times. I had only recently seen the 2007 film he’d produced, The Orphanage, and having loved that I knew that I was going to have to see this one.
It’s based on a Spanish short by the same name, which is well worth a look if you can.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRqS6pBC42w -The link to the short)
The movie itself is Spanish-Canadian and in English which disappointed me. I always feel that with horror movies the Spanish language adds and eerie and magical atmosphere, but that’s just my opinion on it.
The story is about two young girls who are taken out to a cabin in the woods by their estranged father during the financial crisis of 2008, with the intention of killing them and then himself. Fortunately, he is foiled by a creepy and unseen figure who kills him, and then proceeds to look after the girls. Five years later they are found by men hired by their father’s twin brother, (Games of Thrones’ Nickolaj Coster-Waldau) and the feral children move in with him and his punk girlfriend Annabelle. (played by Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain) During the night their uncle is attacked by ‘Mama’, and Annabelle in lumped with two strange children and a ghost who doesn’t seem happy that her children have been taken away from her.
The first three quarters or so of this movie is good. It’s beautifully creepy, with quite a few moments that have you hugging a pillow and checking the room for any menacing figures lurking in the shadows. The relationship built between Annabelle and the older girl, Victoria, is very heart-warming, and there are even moments between Annabelle and the younger, more animalistic child, Lily, which make you smile. Unfortunately, once we find out Mama’s backstory and actually see her, things become less terrifying, and a little bit predictable. Once you find that the ghost just isn’t as scary as it seemed before you kind of lose interest. What I did enjoy was the homage to the short film it was based on, with a little difference at the end of the chase sequence.
Verdict: Throughout most of the film is was very sinister, with occasional moments of sweetness and a motherly bond forming between Annabelle and the children, but it fell apart towards the end and lost all of the fear it had built up during the film. Jessica Chastain gave a very good performance, heart felt and believable, a woman thrust into motherhood without wanting to be there, nor being prepared to be.
The ending might have been an anticlimax, but the rest of the film pulls it up to being just above average. 3/5 stars.