Plot: What’s it about?
Through the years I’ve tried and tried to watch and, more to the point, appreciate the films of Guillermo del Toro. I’ve tried. Now that’s not to say that I dislike what he does, truthfully I really enjoyed both of the Hellboy movies. Then again those were more “Hollywood’ish” than some of his other movies. His main film worth mentioning is, of course, Pan’s Labyrinth and I really can’t even explain that one. It would seem, however, that a number of his movies seem to have the same sort of creatures and even the same sort of tone to them. Ok, that’s fine – a director trademark. But 2013 brought us a film not directed by del Toro, but rather another of his “…presents.” I have to assume that he was a producer or something and truthfully it really doesn’t matter. I look at Mama as a Guillermo del Toro film and the director Andrés Muschietti is obviously both a student and a fan of the man in question. But enough about that…
Troubled husband and father, Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has just murdered his wife. He’s fled to the woods where he’s made the not so easy decision to then take the lives of his two daughters, one an infant and the other just a few years older, before taking his own life. However, in this cabin in the woods, a spirit intervenes and Jeffrey is killed, but his daughters. Five years pass and the daughters have been found, living on a diet of cherries and look more animal than human. Custody is granted to Lucas (also Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain). The girls seem to have a difficult time learning to live a “normal” life and we see that the spirit that took Jeffrey’s life, nicknamed “Mama”, hasn’t stayed in the woods. Of course the adults are oblivious to the spirit and it’s not until that some strange things start happening that their eyebrows are raised.
As visually aggressive as Mama is, there’s no getting around the point that this is so “been there, done that” we know what will happen at the end just a few minutes into the film. Kudos to the casting of ultra-hot Jessica Chastain and admittedly there are some rather strong performances in the film that help carry this from “tired and predictable” to something that’s not a total waste of time. Though classified as a horror film, I will say that it doesn’t rely on the clichés that so populate the genre. Yes, I’m talking about the closing of a medicine cabinet to see a scary face in the reflection or a cat jumping off the screen. You know what I’m talking about. I can’t say that I was actually frightened while watching this film, but there is some rather obscure imagery in there for sure. A step above your run-of-the-mill horror film, Mama isn’t a total waste of time but there are certainly better out there.
Video: How does it look?
You want dark? Oh it’s dark. Mama doesn’t exactly resonate with a bright and vivid palette, but rather seems to dwell in the darkness that surrounds it. The 1.85:1 AVC HD image looks sharp and solid throughout, though there are a few instances (shadows) in which the image is ever so slightly compromised. Detail is sharp and focused and the rather earthy tones used in the film do look good. Contrast that with the stark white of Jessica Chastain’s porcelain skin (with jet black wig to hide her trademark ginger locks) and it’s a very interesting look. Suffice it to say that for a new to Blu-ray film, this one does deliver a very nice-looking transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
To compliment the look of the film, the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack plays just as big a part in the film as the plot itself. The LFE humm and purr throughout making way for a very interesting feel to the film. Dialogue is sharp and well centered and surrounds are very active, giving some ambiance to the mix. As with most horror films, the audio does a fine job here of building some tension and heightening the mood and it does it in nice fashion.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An early financial success of 2013, Mama comes to Blu-ray sporting a nice selection of extras starting off with an audio commentary by brother and sister duo Andy and Barbara Muschietti (they served as the film’s director, writer and producers). They’ve actually got all the bases covered here and give us a nice overview of the film itself, the roots and inspirations as well as everything in between. There’s an original Mama short with an introduction by, you guessed it, Guillermo del Toro, as we can also listen with optional commentary by the Muschietti’s. “The Birth of Mama” is a behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews with the cast and crew. Matriarchal Secrets: The Visual Effects of Mama” give us the low down on the VFX in the film ranging from CGI to some more practical ways of achieving an effect. Half a dozen deleted scenes are also included as well as a DVD of the film and an UltraViolet copy to boot.