Directed by Andres Muschietti Mama is a 2013 horror-fantasy movie co-scripted by the Argentinian along with his sister Barbara Muschietti, who co-produced the movie with J. Miles Dale with Guillermo del Toro serving as executive producer. Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau star along with precocious child actresses who steal the show, along with your hearts. The film is based on Muschietti’s 2008 Spanish-language short film of the same name that captured del Toro’s attention and he helped fleshen it out to life.
Mama starts off with Jeffery, a man distraught by the 2008 financial crisis, who kills his partners and then his estranged wife before grabbing his two young daughters, 3 year old (cutie pie) Victoria and 1 year old Lily, and driving off with him in his car. Driving too fast in the snow he crashes the car in the woods but all 3 are unhurt. He takes them to an abandoned cabin in the woods, where he plans to kill them and commit suicide himself but on raising the gun to Victoria, a mysterious figure stops him, drags him outside and snaps his neck. The two young ones stay in the cabin and we see a cherry being tossed to the girls.
5 years pass as Jeffery’s twin brother Nick searches for them and finally a two man search party finds the two girls alive in the cabin but they act feral and are dirty. The girls are taken to a wellfare center and put under the psychiatric care of Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss. Dr. Dreyfuss helps Nick and his goth-punk girlfriend Annabel get custody of the girls, after the older girl Victoria recognizes her uncle (as he looks just like her dead father), much to disagreement of the girls’ maternal aunt Jean. As the new “family” try to settle in, Annabel is disturbed by glimpses of the dark shadowy figure and is reluctant to be with the girls. However on investigating the figure, Nick is attacked by it, falling from the stairs and goes into a coma. With him hospitalized, Annabel is forced to take care of the kids on her own. Meanwhile Dr. Dreyfuss is intrigued by the drawings the girls have made of a mysterious character they call “Mama”, whom they talk to and play with. He hypnotizes Victoria (who can speak normally while Lily mostly giggles and prefers to sleep animal like on the floor under her older sister’s bed and eats while sitting off the floor) and she tells him Mama is an aggrieved mother separated from her child and brings to light the story of Edith Brennan, a mental asylum patient in the late 19th century.
At the end of the interview, Dreyfuss sees Mama, floating as a black substance on the walls and is initially scared off. Annabell herself has a nightmare about Mama’s past; Mama had committed suicide by jumping off a cliff after stealing her baby from the nuns who had separated them. While falling, Mama’s child was snagged on a branch and killed on impact, while Mama fell into the water. Mama never knew what happened to her baby and while searching for them has kept the girls as surrogates. Annabel bonds with Victoria slowly gaining her affection but Lily still prefers playing with Mama. Lucas regains consciousness after having a disturbing vision of his dead brother Jeffrey telling him to go to the cabin in the woods. Meanwhile, continuing his research, Dr. Dreyfuss visits the cabin to research Mama’s presence, and upon trying to photograph her, is attacked and killed. On visiting his office and finding him gone, Annabell steals his notes & laptop and a box holding the remains of Edith’s baby & learns that Edith and Mama are the same person, while Lucas leaves the hospital to search for the cabin. At the house, Annabel finds Lily missing from her room and lying on the ground outside and runs to get her back. She achieves a brief breakthrough with the little girl who initially fights her off but calms down when Annabel kisses her hand – and that’s when a jealous Mama attacks, subduing Annabel and possessing the body of Jean (who had broken into the house to grab the girls) and drives off with the girls into the woods.
Annabel recovers and heads out to the cabin in her car where she meets Lucas and they track Mama walking with the two girls towards the same cliff where her human self had died all those years ago. preparing to relive her suicide by taking Victoria and Lilly with her over the cliff. Annabel offers Mama the remains of her child, and the angry spirit undergoes a more peaceful transformation, appearing human again. But when Lilly calls out for her, Mama returns to her terrifying form and attacks, discarding the remains of her child. After a struggle, Annabel holds onto Victoria who implores Mama that she wants to stay back while Lily cries that she and her sister should be with Mama. Mama encases herself & Lily in a cocoon and jumps off the cliff, hitting the same branch she did in the 1800s. Upon impact, she and Lilly turn into a shower of moths. While hugging Annabel and Lucas, Victoria notices a blue and black butterfly land on her hand, which she believes to be Lilly.
Sad ending. Mama shown upclose is less scarier than when she is a mass of dark scary in the shadows. Well acted and reminiscent of Del Toro’s work. The subtle humour when Lily plays with Mama in a couple of the scenes is fun & scary. One movie I definitely will love over the years. 8.5 outta 10!