Investment banker Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) offs his co-workers and wife and takes his kids to go on the run. He leaves town like a bat out of hell driving his sedan way too fast on icy roads and pays the price. The wreck is brief but one of the more effective crashes I’ve seen on film in a while. One of my big fears is losing control on ice and rolling over a hill, but wow is it well shot and its all the more effective due to the silence of the event as the falling snow smothers the sound. They survive and stumble upon a cabin in the woods. Jeffrey begins telling the girls how much he loves them and then prepares to kill them too. The titular Mama then shows up and saves the day by doing something horrible and out of focus to the girls father.
Jeffrey’s brother, Lucas (Coster-Waldau once again), never gives up looking for the family. After law enforcement has long since given up, Lucas is still paying for a team of private searchers. Five years later and running out of funds Lucas lucks out as the team hits pay dirt. They find the car and now pinpointing a region to search it is not long before they find the cabin where the girls took refuge. Lucas and his rocker girlfriend Annabel, played by Jessica Chastain (who looks like a younger, hotter Joan Jett) take in the orphaned sisters Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lily (Isabella Nèlisse) with the help of Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) -a psychiatrist who wishes to study the modern ferals and their re-integration into society. The children claim not to have been alone, but raised by Mama. The adults originally dismiss her as an imaginary construct to help the children cope with their abandonment.
Dr. Dreyfuss begins to suspect that there may be more truth than fiction to the person of Mama and soon enough she comes to take the children back. Lucas and Annabel find themselves in a battle with a malevolent spirit that wants the children in an attempt to salve her soul. Mama will stop at nothing to be reunited with Victoria and Lilly but Lucas and Annabel are equally determined to protect the children. Annabel finds herself fighting Mama alone after Lucas is injured. The ending is effective and shocking showing the lengths that both of these women, physical and ethereal go to protect the children the way each sees fit.
MAMA is well executed and tightly written. There are no overly long exposition dumps and at no point does the movie hang up and drag along. There are some downright scary moments in this film. Not the cheesy jump scares that abound in PG horror but moments of terror. The effects are good for the most part. Mama comes across as a bit too cartoony at times but overall its not that distracting. Jessica Chastain looks super hot as a punk rock chick with her short black hair and tattoos. What may be the most divisive is the ending. It’s brutal and gut wrenching. MAMA is an example of PG-13 horror done right.