Guillermo del Toro has the ability to portray horror in an artful manner. In “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), which he directed, a young girl enters a beautiful mythical labyrinth, containing as many dangers (though fantastical) as her life with her sadistic stepfather and bedridden mother. It is not surprising that he was drawn to “Mama,” directed by Andrés Muschietti.
In “Mama” (Spain, Canada 2013), for which del Toro is the executive producer, the theme of young people dealing with horror and loss in a strange and scary place is again pursued. Two young girls disappear in the woods on the same day that they lose their parents to murder. Discovered 5 years later, they are placed in the care of their father’s brother, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his rocker-musician girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain).
The girls, Victoria (Megan Charpentier)and the younger Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse), who screams and gestures rather than talk, are seen for a while by a therapist, who opines that the “Mama” that he hears about is imaginary. But, Annabelle thinks otherwise as she sees and hears odd things that can’t be explained without some supernatural take.
Frightening creatures in closets, under beds, or hidden in corners of rooms strike at some visceral human fear of unknown dangers. Are they imaginary based on traumatic pasts, a manifestation of a mad ghostlike apparition, or a strange reality? Each member of this put-together family deals with fear in very different ways.
“Mama” is the first feature film for director Andres Muschietti, whose previous works are mostly commercial work. He co-wrote the script, exploring ideas originally displayed in a video which he and his sister created. Also called, “Mama,” this 3 minute short contains the kernel of Muschietti’s ideas for the feature. Muschietti credits Guillermo del Toro for encouraging him to make the film after del Toro viewed the short video. Muschietti, interviewed recently, states that del Toro “… is also a guy that wants you to trust your instinct. But he never tried to push any ideas or reference something from his films he thought I should mimic.” Source: sacurrent.com
The film is playing nationwide. In Portland, it can be seen at numerous theaters, including the Living Room Theaters, Century Clackamas Town Center, Century Cinema 6 Eastport Plaza, Lloyd Mall 8 (Regal) and the Division Street Stadium 13 (Regal). Movieclock.com lists all the theaters, days and times for “Mama.”