Mama (2013 film)
Mama is a 2013 supernatural horror film directed and co-written by Andy Muschietti in his directional debut and based on his 2008 Argentine short film Mamá. The film stars Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse as two young girls abandoned in a forest cabin, fostered by an unknown entity that they fondly call "Mama" (Javier Botet), which eventually follows them to their new suburban home led by two adults (Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) after their uncle retrieves them. It was produced by J. Miles Dale and co-writer Barbara Muschietti, with Guillermo del Toro serving as executive producer. Originally set for an October 2012 release, it was released in theaters on 18 January 2013.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Andy Muschietti|
by Andy Muschietti
|Music by||Fernando Velázquez|
|Edited by||Michelle Conroi|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Budget||$15 million |
|Box office||$146.4 million|
Distraught after losing his fortune in the 2008 financial crisis, stockbroker Jeffrey Desange has killed all of his business partners, his employees, and estranged wife before taking his young daughters, three-year-old Victoria and one-year-old Lily, away from home. Driving dangerously fast on a snowy road, Jeffrey loses control and the car slides down the mountain, ramming into the woods and cracking Victoria's glasses so she cannot see out of one eye. Having survived the collision, he takes the children into an abandoned cabin. Planning to kill his daughters and commit suicide, he tells Victoria to face the window and raises a gun to point at her head, but a shadowy figure turns the tables by killing him. Victoria, whose glasses were broken, can only see a mysterious black blur attacking her father. The girls, huddled by the fireside, are tossed a cherry by the mysterious figure.
Five years later, a rescue party, sponsored by Jeffrey's identical twin brother Lucas, finds Victoria and Lily alive and well but in a feral state after a few years of seclusion and isolation-filthy, vicious, and animalistic. The girls are put in a welfare clinic under the psychiatric care of Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss. They make reference to "Mama," a maternal protector figure, whose arrival is often heralded by black moths. The girls are initially hostile to Luke, but Victoria recognizes him after he gives her a pair of glasses and she can see him properly. Dreyfuss agrees to support Luke and his girlfriend Annabel's custody claim against the girls' maternal great-aunt, Jean Podolski, as long as Dreyfuss is allowed to monitor the progress of the girls. Victoria acclimates quickly to domestic life while Lily retains much of her feralness (language regression, growling, and crawling on the floor), not being used to being around people.
While in bed with Lucas, Annabel is startled by the appearance of a frightening figure. Luke is attacked by the monstrous form of "Mama" and put into a temporary coma. Annabel, who is uncomfortable being around the girls, finds herself left alone to care for them, something she is initially uncomfortable with as she has never had a desire to be a mother of any sort. However, this changes as she works with the children and bonds with them. Although Annabel makes progress with Victoria, Lily remains hostile. Alarmed by nightmares of a strange woman and Victoria's warning about Mama's jealousy, Annabel asks Dreyfuss to investigate further. He initially thought "Mama" to be an imaginary alter-ego of Victoria, created from raising Lily. However, his research corroborates Victoria's story that Mama is an aggrieved mother and brings to light the story of Edith Brennan, a long deceased mentally ill patient of St. Gertrude's psychiatric hospital which shut down in 1878.
Dreyfuss recovers a box from a government warehouse containing a baby's remains. Annabel has a dream revealing Mama's past: when Edith Brennan ("Mama") was sent to St. Gertrude's Asylum, her child was taken from her and given to nuns. She escaped the asylum, stabbed a nun and took her baby back. Fleeing her pursuers, Edith jumped off a cliff, but before hitting the water below, she and the child made impact with a large branch. Edith drowned, but the child's body snagged on the branch and did not fall with her into the water. Annabel realizes that Mama still hasn't realized her child was caught on the tree, and doesn't understand why her baby wasn't in the water with her. In her profound sorrow and distress, Edith's troubled ghost unsuccessfully searched the woods for her child for one hundred and thirty-five years until she discovered Victoria and Lily, taking them on as substitutes to soothe her lonely and sorrowful spirit.
Luke regains consciousness after a vision of his dead twin, Jeffrey, tells him to "go to the cabin" and save his daughters. Victoria's growing closeness to Annabel makes her less willing to play with Mama, unlike Lily. Dreyfuss visits the cabin and is killed by Mama, with Annabel taking some of the objects relating to Mama from his office, including the body of her baby. Annabel and the girls are attacked by a jealous Mama, who kills Aunt Jean, who has been watching the house, and uses her body to spirit the children away in Jean's car. Annabel and Lucas find the children on the same cliff where Brennan leaped with her infant to their deaths over a century earlier. It is immediately obvious that Mama is preparing to re-enact the deadly fall with Victoria and Lily.
When Annabel offers Mama the remains of her infant child, Mama's appearance changes, becoming more human, and she wails in despair. However, when Lily (remembering only Mama as her original parent, since she was abandoned in the woods for most of her young life) calls out for her, Mama reverts to her monstrous form and takes the girls again. Annabel clings to Victoria, who asks to stay with Annabel instead of leaving with Mama, which Mama accepts. After a tearful farewell, Mama and Lily fall off the cliff, turning into a shower of moths when they hit the branch. Just before impact, Mama and Lily are briefly shown as spirits happy to be united while embracing and smiling. Annabel and Lucas embrace Victoria, and Victoria notices a butterfly landing on her hand, indicating that Lily is still with her; her spirit reborn as a blue-patterned butterfly.
- Jessica Chastain as Annabel
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Lucas Desange / Jeffrey Desange
- Megan Charpentier as Victoria Desange
- Morgan McGarry as Young Victoria
- Isabelle Nélisse as Lily Desange
- Maya and Sierra Dawe as Young Lily
- Daniel Kash as Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss
- Javier Botet as Mama
- Laura Guiteras and Melina Matthews as Mama (voice)
- Hannah Cheesman as Beautiful Mama / Edith Brennan
- Jane Moffat as Jean Podolski
- David Fox as Burnsie
- Julia Chantrey as Nina
- Elva Mai Hoover as Secretary
- Dominic Cuzzocrea as Ron
- Diane Gordon as Louise
The film began production in Pinewood Toronto Studios on 3 October 2011. Production ended on 9 December 2011. Parts of the film were also shot in Quebec City, Quebec. Although the film was produced in Canada, it is set in Clifton Forge, Virginia. The film was initially scheduled for release in October 2012, but was later rescheduled for January to avoid competing with Paranormal Activity 4. Its success at that later date has, among with other dump months horror films, convinced studios to start opening horror movies year-round.
Mama received generally positive reviews from critics. It holds a 65% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 157 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's critical consensus states: "If you're into old school scares over cheap gore, you'll be able to get over Mama's confusing script and contrived plot devices." Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Richard Roeper, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, enjoyed the film, giving it three stars out of four and saying, "Movies like Mama are thrill rides. We go to be scared and then laugh, scared and then laugh, scared and then shocked. Of course, there's almost always a little plot left over for a sequel. It's a ride I'd take again." Owen Gleiberman, reviewing for Entertainment Weekly, gave the movie a B and said, "Mama lifts almost every one of its fear-factor visuals from earlier films: the rotting black passageways that spread like mold over the walls (very Ringu meets Repulsion); the fire in her eyes; the crouched figures that skitter and pounce à la the infamous 'spider' outtake from the original Exorcist; the way that Mama, with her arms like smoky-shadowy bent tendrils, evokes both the monster from the Alien films and also, in a funny way, the crumpled-puppet gothic mischievousness of Tim Burton animation. Nothing in the movie is quite original, yet Muschietti, expanding his original short, knows how to stage a rip-off with frightening verve. It helps to have an actress on hand as soulful as Jessica Chastain..."
IGN editor Scott Corulla rated the film 7.3 out of 10 and wrote, "This is a fine first film for director Andrés Muschietti and, despite some missteps and disappointments, very well could be a harbinger of interesting things to come for the helmer." The Huffington Post wrote, "With Del Toro's name up front, expect Mama to be the winter horror film of choice in 2013." The Philadelphia Inquirer called the film an "effectively spooky ghost story", adding, "Mama is full of arty tropes – sepia-toned flashbacks, flickering lights, menacing murmurings. The atmosphere is positively spectral. And it's easy to see why del Toro is a champion: Like his Pan's Labyrinth, there's a fairy-tale aspect (the film even begins with the title card "Once upon a time..."), with children in jeopardy, a witchy monster, and edge-of-the-precipice confrontations." Canyon News wrote, "The scares do indeed come a mile a minute and will unnerve even some of the toughest moviegoers." Mick LaSalle of the Houston Chronicle wrote, "Director Andres Muschietti is cinematically literate – in one example he borrows a flashbulb effect from Hitchcock's Rear Window – and he has visual panache. Much of the movie is surprisingly beautiful."
The film earned $28,402,310 on its opening weekend, debuting at #1 and playing at 2,647 theaters. As of 4 April 2013, it grossed $146,428,180 worldwide and is a commercial success. Additionally, Jessica Chastain, for the second time in her career, claimed the top two spots of the box-office with her starring roles in Mama and Zero Dark Thirty.
|Saturn Awards||Best Horror Film||Mama||Nominated|||
|Young Artist Award||Best Leading Young Actress in a Feature Film||Megan Charpentier||Nominated|||
|Best Supporting Young Actress in a Feature Film||Morgan McGarry||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Young Actress in a Feature Film||Isabelle Nelisse||Nominated|
|MTV Movie Award||Best Scared-As-Shit Performance||Jessica Chastain||Nominated|||
|People's Choice Awards||Favorite Horror Movie||Mama||Nominated|||
|Golden Trailer Awards||Best Horror||Mama||Won|||
|Best Motion/Title Graphics||Universal Pictures||Nominated|||
|Best Horror Poster||Universal Pictures||Nominated|
In February 2013, it was reported that a sequel was in works. In January 2016, Universal announced that duo Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch would rewrite and direct the sequel. Chastain would not return for the sequel.
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