Sunday, January 20, 2013
Mama (2013) : Maternal Instincts Are A Bitch
Not to say that Mama isn't entertaining for the most part, but when we finally witness the horror that is the title character, I found myself sighing and wishing I'd have waited for DVD. There are some requisite jump scares and some chilling moments here and there but for the most part I will have to admit I was not scared. And that, rather than body count or creative kills, is what I'm looking for these days, so I thought Mama would be firmly in my wheelhouse.
Monsters and ghosts that are computer generated just lack the finesse to produce any kind of visceral reaction from me. And if that sounds snobbish then so be it. I am a practical effects junkie and for the most part detest CGI (unless of course it is very good CGI, read: Jurassic Park or Lord of the Rings - but hey, not everyone can get WETA to join their production!)
A father whose life is upended by financial ruin kills his wife (off-camera) and steals away with his two young children, Victoria and baby Lilly. He is so distraught that he drives off onto snowy roads and flips the car over an embankment. Amazingly, the family of (now) three manage to survive the crash and walk off into the woods, happening upon a deserted cabin looking akin to the Evil Dead cottage. Not good.
Moving ahead 5 years (yeah, right. Five years in the woods alone. Okaaaaay.), and we have the uncle of the two girls who has been actively pursuing leads and still searching for his brother - all this time. Lucas (Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) definitely deserves Brother of the Decade, if we're not done labeling people. He's even been paying people to keep up the search.
One of the troubles with this type of storyline is believability. It's truly hard to fathom that children taken from horrific conditions such as these, with no real grasp on the world, would be placed with anyone - let alone a couple who are 1) not married 2) not financially stable 3) seemingly irresponsible 4) have careers lacking any sense of accountability or future...the list goes on. These children would need to be in a psychiatric setting for quite some time. But alas, it's only a movie....
Now. Back to the CGI. As previously stated, I'm not a fan. I'm tired that every damn movie made these days has to use this technique at some point. Though there was an actual actor (Javier Botet, the creepy dude at the end of .Rec) playing the role of Mama, it was still obvious where the CGI was added - Mama's face was a little too fakey looking to me, and her hair was simply everywhere - flowing every which way and then some. Her crazy walk/crawl/run was totally CGI. What happened to just doing it the old fashioned way? Like in the original '89 version of The Woman in Black, seeing the title character standing across the graveyard - it was a real damn person. Not a caricature of one. And it was scary. Not cartoonish.
Same goes for Ghost Story, The Innocents, etc. Please forgive my bitchiness, I'm just sick of everything looking like this:
Regardless, the actual amount of CGI in this movie really isn't too bad. I've seen worse. Much worse (i.e. Van Helsing). But I still feel like this film could have been done with practical effects. It does however, lack a serious amount of chills and thrills. There are a few jump scares that shook up the teenaged girls sitting in front of me (though I don't know how thy had the time to notice with all their texting), but as far as genuine fear, there was very little. The story was weak (perhaps due it the film being expanded from short format) but the acting was decent. I had hoped this would be my first favorite movie of 2013, but to be honest I was left in the cold after watching it. For all its good moments, it still failed to illicit any serious scares and I nearly fell asleep in a few of the quieter scenes.
So while it isn't a bad film, I would have much rather waited for DVD on this one, and will be wary of del Toro's endorsements in the future, having been terribly burned on Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and getting what I would call a little brush burn with Mama.
"Mothers are all slightly insane." ~ J.D.Salinger