““Mama” is an auspicious debut from Andrés (Andy) Muschietti that gets much more right than wrong.”
Andy Muschietti’s “Mama” is a bit of a throwback to an era when horror films aimed not to disgust, but to scare and frighten. It was a time when most of the violence was implied, yet somehow was more effective than actually seeing it, because there’s no place scarier than our imaginations.
“Mama” isn’t a film that reveals its secrets easily, or quickly (it could have used a bit of tightening in the editing department). Speaking of ’secrets,’ I thought that I should mention that there were some critics that complained that the creature was revealed too early. I don’t know what cut of the film that they saw, but I don’t recall seeing it in its entirety till about an hour or so in.
In fact, I think that the restraint Muschietti showed was not only unusual, but admirable, especially when it served to heighten tension.
Another film of hauntings and the undead, Peter Medak’s “The Changling,” momentarily came to mind when I was watching this, though he’s a far superior film maker (which is understandable, considering that he has probably done sixty or seventy projects at this point).
Another thing that Medak’s does better is to generate a tangible sense of menace, and more effectively use sound and light.
This is something that Andy Muschietti will learn, though in his defense, there are some remarkably interesting and innovative shots in this film, some of which manage to turn a simple composition into something amazing.
In summary, “Mama” isn’t a great film, nor is it the scariest film you’ll ever see, though it does try to bring something new to the table–while evoking the past, which makes it worth seeing for that reason alone.