I’m not sure what I was expecting from a January horror film. But it certainly wasn’t what I got. Everybody say it with me: “MA-MA.”

Genre: Horror
Premise: (from IMDB) Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?
About: “Mama” seems to be the result of a growing trend of directors showing their chops via short films, then expanding those short films into full features or feature assignments. Mama started out as a 2008 short and has now been brought to the big screen, at least in part by Guillermo del Toro (it’s unclear how involved he was with the production). Co-writer Neil Cross is the creator of the show “Luther,” with everyone’s famous Prometheus captain in the lead role, Idris Elba. Andres Muschietti is the co-writer with his wife, and also the director of the film, which stars Jessica Chastain, the Academy Award nominee from Zero Dark Thirty.
Writers: Neil Cross and Andres Muschietti & Barbara Muschietti



This movie is scary.

This movie is really scary.

But this movie will also make you cry.

It will hit you on an emotional level that you were not prepared for.

You will be in the theater doing your best to suck back tears before those dreaded lights come on in the end and everybody can see how much of a wuss you are.

In other words, it’s the ideal screenplay that I always ask for in the horror genre but never get. I get cheap scares. I get cheap thrills. I get cheap characters. I never get horror that makes me feel something. And I sure didn’t expect it from this film. I remember seeing the preview in the theater a month ago and laughing. You had kids crawling around like spiders while the word “Mama” was echoed theatrically in a child’s voice. I didn’t see any way this could be anything other than awful.

Boy was I wrong. Mama is the best movie I’ve seen in half a year. It would’ve been in my Top 5 of 2012 easily. Instead, it was released in the studio dumping ground of late January and February. But this is far from a piece of studio trash.

Mama starts with a harrowing opening scene featuring a deranged suburban father breaking down after the 2008 financial meltdown. He kills his wife, a couple of his co-workers, then grabs his two young daughters and starts driving. Where? He doesn’t know. He just needs to get away from here. His disorientation eventually results in his car shooting off a ledge in the mountains. The family survives the fall and starts marching through the woods, looking for shelter.

They find it in a small dilapidated cabin. But soon after going inside, they realize that somebody else lives here. And when Daddy decides to take the rest of the family with him to that big suburban block party in the sky, that house host (who we only see parts of) rips his head off and starts raising the girls herself.

Five years later, the father’s brother, who thankfully still has his head on straight, is desperately looking for the family. Miraculously, after looking everywhere in those mountains, he finds them. Except the girls are anything but the ones who left on that fateful day. They’re alone, malnourished, dirty, and, well, “feral” would be the only way to describe it. They scamper about on all fours and haven’t seen a bottle of Head & Shoulders in quite some time, as you can confirm below.

mama 2

Over the next three months, a psychiatrist and his team carefully work the kids back into society and eventually the daughters are able to move in with their Uncle and his girlfriend, the too-cool-for-school Annabel. Annabel has her own shit going on. She’s a guitarist in a rock band. She’s used to living life on her terms. She was just dating this guy cause he was fun. Now she finds herself in the unenviable position of playing mother, a role she’s clearly not ready for.

After the girls move in, strange things start happening. The couple begins to hear noises, and the girls can be heard playing and laughing with somebody. One night, the disturbance becomes so intense, the Uncle gets up to see what he can find. He sees something that can’t be explained, stumbles backwards, over the railing, and slams headfirst into the stairs below, the force so great it sends him into a coma.

You know what that means . Annabel is now stuck on her own with the kids. And I don’t care if you’re mother of the year. No one wants to get stuck with kids who scamper around on all fours and tell you things like, “Don’t hug me. She’ll get jealous.” At least no one I know. While Annabel’s simply trying to make it through each day, the children’s psychiatrist has been studying the children’s tapes, and becomes interested in the girls’ repeated references to a woman who raised them in the cabin. At first he assumes that woman is part of their imagination. But the more he looks into it, the more it looks like this woman may in fact be real. And that she’ll stop at nothing to get her kids back.


Film Review Mama

The structure behind this screenplay was exceptional . I can’t remember reading a horror script that had this much forward momentum – that never got boring – that never got weak. There were a lot of things that contributed to that. Let’s see if we can identify some of them.

As you all know, I like screenplays with strong character goals. And that doesn’t change when it comes to the horror genre. I love Naomi Watts desperately trying to solve the “7-Days” tape in The Ring. I love the family trying to get their daughter back in Poltergeist. I love the mother trying to exorcise the demon inside her daughter in The Exorcist. But with the horror genre, you occasionally get the type of movie where a force is haunting our characters and we just sort of sit back and watch it happen. You see this, for the most part, in movies like, “The Others” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” and more recently in the Paranormal Activity franchise.

These are much harder stories to pull off because nobody’s going after anything. By including a character goal, your story gets pulled along the track by someone seeking to solve a problem. When you don’t have anyone pulling, your’e obviously stuck in one place.  And how interesting is that?

So what Mama does is really cool. It does both. Within the house, Annabel is taking care of these girls while all this crazy shit is happening. That’s the “haunting” section. Then the psychiatrist has a goal. He suspects that the “mother” these girls are referring to wasn’t made up, as he originally suspected, but that she might be real. So he starts investigating that possibility. This works really well since we’re able to cut back and forth between the haunting and the investigation, allowing a sort of “cheat” where we get the best of both worlds.

Another real strength of Mama is its main character, Annabel, and the situation it places here in. We establish early on that she’s a terrible parent and is only in this thing for the Uncle. So when the twist comes with the uncle falling into the coma, the story switches gears to place the worst character for the job in a position where she has to do the job. What a great story choice! I mean how much more compelling is that than having the loving doting perfect Uncle around all the time?  If that were the case, there would be no conflict, because Annabel would never be forced to deal with the children. This was one of several really slick story choices I give the writers credit for.  Get the fucking uncle out of the picture.

mama 4

Then there was the brilliant integration of the subplots. You had the psychiatrist. You had the Uncle in the hospital. You had the grandmother, who wanted custody of the kids. Then, of course, you have the girls’ own interactions with Mama herself.

And the reason I’m going gaga over all of this is because I read the bad versions of these screenplays every day. Where there are no subplots. It’s just people in a house with something weird attacking them. And that gets boring after 30 pages. Here we have so many subplots to keep weaving in and out of the main plot, that the story always remains fresh.

I also loved the decision to use two children. 99 out of 100 writers would’ve made the more predictable choice of going with one child, because one spooky child is what we always see. Of course, one spooky child is also cliché and therefore boring. By adding a second child, it opened up all these new avenues, and boy did the writers take advantage of it. One of the most brilliant choices in was to have one of the children pull away from Mama (and gravitate towards Annabel) and the other prefer Mama.

(spoiler) This created the all important CONFLICT that you want in every character dynamic (even if the dynamic is two young children) and led to a shocking, emotionally satisfying climax, one that you never could’ve achieved with a single child. And it’s why I keep going on about this same old advice – AVOID THE OBVIOUS CHOICE. Not only is it boring, but when you push yourself to go with the non-obvious, it almost always opens up new story directions that you never could’ve predicted. Why? Because nobody else has gone down that path before!  so they’ve never found those choices.

There were only a few minor things that bothered me. I didn’t understand how this thing could travel from house to house through the walls. That was vague. The moths seemed more spooky than story-relevant (although I did like their payoff). And there was a laughably clumsy moment late in the story where Annabel is driving to the forest and nearly runs over the Uncle, who just happened to be stumbling onto the road at that moment. But other than that, this was a GREAT cinematic experience, the kind you dream of having every time you pay 18 bucks. Top-notch storytelling, top-notch movie-making. I will go to see this one again!

[ ] What the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the price of admission
[x] impressive (go see it now!)
[ ] genius

What I learned: I absolutely LOVED the execution of the character flaw here and it fits in perfectly with the article I wrote the other day. Annabel’s flaw is that she doesn’t want to parent. She doesn’t want that responsibility. You’ll notice that the entire story, then, is designed to challenge this flaw. Annabel is thrust into the position as the sole parent of two young girls. They’re resisting. She’s resisting. But as the script goes on, she starts to change, begins to care for them, and in the end, (spoiler) she’s willing to fight an otherworldly creature with her life in order to save them. It’s the ultimate character transformation, and it’s a big reason why this ending was so emotional.

  • Pugsley

    Hey, Carson- being such a huge ALIENS fan, I was hoping to see a mother vs. mother battle royal at the climax, but sadly didn’t get that. Still enjoyed the movie, though. Good to know horror’s still a big box office draw.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=804792429 Craig Paulsen

    Sounds great.

  • Avishai

    Well. Guess I have to see this.
    Too bad that here in Israel it comes out in APRIL.

    • Bella_Lugossi

      May 9 in The Netherlands. :]

      I will put this one on my list.

      On a side note (since there’s no proper place to discuss it): I LOVED Draft Day. One of the best screenplays I’ve ever read. I started reading and when I looked up for the first time, I was on page 60-something.

      That thing was like butter! Great dialogue, individual voices that pop off the page (so you never have to go back because you forgot who’s who and who said what). Also: laugh out loud funny in 5-7 spots (all in dialogue). The father-coach / son-GM thing didn’t bother me much. It may have been a little over the top, but the rest of the script was just… so great! (And I have only a basic understanding of American Football.)

      Impressive! :]

      • garrett_h

        I really enjoyed Draft Day as well. Read it back when the BL first got released. So far it’s my second favorite of the BL scripts (right behind Man of Tomorrow). I’m a huge NFL fan so I knew I’d enjoy it, but my enjoyment went beyond football. I really liked the writing and structure of it. Some of the stuff was unrealistic though, like trading your next four first round picks. A real GM would be fired on the spot. But it’s a movie, so some things have to be sensationalized I guess. Overall, it was just a really awesome script.

        Unfortunately, it looks like it’s in turnaround, so we may never see it on the big screen. What a shame that would be. If they release it during football season, I don’t see how it could be anything but a huge box office hit.

        • Bella_Lugossi

          I will read Man of Tomorrow next. Thanks for recommending it.

          • garrett_h

            If you’re a comic book fan, I think you’ll like it. If not, i dunno lol. But its kinda like Batman vs. Superman. I really liked it. Probably will never get made, but it got the writer a job on the Fantastic Four reboot.

          • Bella_Lugossi

            I have never read a comic in my life, except for things like Asterix, haha.

            But I’m not a big American Football fan, so that doesn’t mean anything. Will read it anyway.

        • Xarkoprime

          Have you read Story of Your Life yet off the black list? I freaking loved that screenplay.

          • Bella_Lugossi

            No, so that one’s next. I actually just got my hands on the BL, so the field is wide open. Thanks! :)

          • garrett_h

            Story of Your Life was an awesome script. It’s currently my #3 from the BL. That might be because I’m a huge NFL fan and grew up devouring comic books, so the subject matter was the difference.

            I love sci fi as well and SoYL to me was a nice little throwback to old school, character driven stuff. Like the original Day The Earth Stood Still. I had a couple minor issues with it but overall I really liked it.

            Unfortunately, that one probably won’t get made either. It seems like studios are only interested in certain types of sci fi. There aren’t enough explosions and lasers in this. But if MOON got made, I have faith someone will make this as well.

      • Jonathan_D_S

        I liked D-Day a lot as well. The thing I noticed about the individual voices is that they used the SAME individual voice for the GMs, and another voice for the black players. I’m not saying it didn’t work, I just felt like I could glimpse the wizard behind the curtain.

        Random questions:
        -Why did Sonny not pick Bo in the end? Was it the QB’s fragile confidence, post-sacks? Or merely the master plan of getting Vontae and Banks while keeping Drew?
        -What ended up being the cost of his maneuvers? Did he get all his first round picks back from Detroit? That all was unclear.

        • Bella_Lugossi

          Sonny learned something along the way: to trust his instincts. There was no smoking gun or anything. He just didn’t feel good about Bo, so he made him the pawn in his magnificent game of chess.

          • Xarkoprime

            Just responding to you to keep my comment in this area of discussion…

            I think it would be sweet to set up some kind of a group thing outside of SS where we select one script per week from the BL and discuss it, maybe even use it as a vehicle for Carson where we can relay material we really like. I love reading screenplays but the discussion aspect of SS that we used to have is sooooo beneficial. Would be cool to have that back again in some way.

          • Jonathan_D_S

            I like that idea, Mr. X

          • Xarkoprime

            I’m working a bit today, but I’m home kind of early so ill brainstorm ways we can get this thing going. Look for me in the Wednesday review. :)

          • Bella_Lugossi

            Will do.

          • Bella_Lugossi

            Seconded. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the private reviews started, but the idea of discussing one BL-script a week is semi-genius. I’m in! :]

          • Xarkoprime

            Btw if anyone has any suggestions email me at xarkoprime@gmail.com

          • garrett_h

            I’m in, too!

      • sweetvita

        I loved Draft Day, too. In the opening, the banter between the two radio hosts was was a great way to set Sonny’s character up – pure genius on the writers part. I appreciated the story for many reasons, and it was by far one of the best scripts I’ve read in a looong time. Love it when a script (or movie) has the power to ‘take me there’ – to move my emotions. When I got to FADE OUT, I just wanted to bask in the afterglow of the story.

        • Bella_Lugossi

          I actually stood up and applauded.

          • sweetvita

            Aww… so that was you wildly applauding from the beautiful Low Country ;)

            The script worked on so many levels that are crucial to great storytelling. The characters were so believable.

            It’s scripts like this that inspire me to be a better writer.

          • Bella_Lugossi

            When someone farts in Holland, the whole country smells it – we’re that small. :]

            And I agree: inspirational screenplay, loads of lessons in there.

      • Xarkoprime

        Draft Day wasn’t bad, I quite liked it also. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I actually enjoyed American “football” as they call it lol.

        I think the ending will play out pretty sweet on screen.

        I hated that this screenplay was compared to Moneyball… I know Carson gradually began to dislike Moneyball more and more after he read it, but coming from a baseball fan who has actually read the novel source material that the movie was based on, it’s a totally different sport and a totally different concept. Billy Beane actually changed baseball in real life and his strategies are used by all the best teams today, Draft Day just seemed like a behind the scenes football movie to me (not based on a true story either). All depends on the directing and acting, but I didn’t get a feeling of great emotional depth from the screenplay either. I think it will be a fun flick but I don’t see hear it screaming out Oscar…

        • garrett_h

          Yeah, I read Moneyball too. Great book, and I think they did a decent job adapting it. No way you can get all the inside info into a movie and make it interesting. They presented the science of the system in a way that was palatable and entertaining to the average fan.

          And these are definitely completely different stories. Essentially, Draft Day is the intense scene where Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are making those trades for Rincon, etc., except stretched out over an entire movie.

          • Xarkoprime

            You read my mind about that scene. I was actually going to say the exact same thing but refrained because I didn’t think anyone would understand what I was talking about…

    • Citizen M

      Feb 8 in South Africa.

      Carson, I think you give away too many spoilers.

      • Poe_Serling

        That’s why I stopped reading the review at ” But this is far from a piece of studio trash.”

        For a horror project, that’s high praise from Carson.

        • ThomasBrownen

          Yeah, I stopped reading to avoid spoilers too.

          What a novel concept… I didn’t want to read what Carson wrote, so I didn’t read it. There are a few trolls who could benefit from this idea too.

  • ElliotMaguire

    Great review, I’m looking forward to this even more now.

    One thing that I would say is, do the subplots not distract at all from the central storyline? I see a lot of films (especially when expanded from shorts) where the subplots are put in as padding because the main story is so thin, and short.

    I agree that most of these ghost flicks do just stay in the same house with the same characters, but I think this can work as long as PLENTY is happening in the house. If its a feeling of claustrophobia the characters are feeling, the audience should feel it too.

    But from the sounds of it, the writers of this have taken the idea of the short and created a more sprawling and in-depth story around it, and I agree that is not something we see enough of these days.

  • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

    Interesting that RT classifies ‘Mama’s script as “confused” and “contrived.” It caught my attention as an unconventional horror story with gravity, and reminded me of my own horror script I wrote last year that also featured maternal care as an underlying theme.

    I suppose horror critics today don’t really know/care what they want. We’re far removed from the brainy days of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Exorcist,’ and ‘The Shining,’ and now rapidly recycling the franchise baddies like Freddy and Jason and Leatherface. I guess when critics are thumbs upping garbage like ‘Cabin in the Woods’ the gig is up.

    I’ll have to check it and ZDT out his week, if only to get my double dose of Chastain. I guess after bagging bin Laden spooky specters are easy pickins. What’s up next, a Terminator?

    • Xarkoprime

      Cabin in the Woods wasn’t a horror though…

      • AstralAmerican

        Yes it was…a horror-ible film! ;)

        • Ambrose*

          That got a laugh from me. But only because it is so true.

  • FD

    I don’t want to diss, but this review makes me wonder why Rose did so well on its review. The way I read that script, many of the “Don’ts” in this review apply to it, which confuses me somewhat. Or did I miss something again? I mean, I thought the Silver Linings Playbook was silly, and now it’s going to storm the Oscars. Woe is me.

    • carsonreeves1

      which parts specifically? I think I know what your main question is. The main character wasn’t very active or driving the story in that script? The big way to make contained stories work when the main character isn’t driving the action with a clear goal is to pack every scene with conflict (preferably with a lot of dramatic irony) which I thought Rose did really well.

      • FD

        I had a really long answer, but I’ve deleted it. The more I think about it, Rose is a whole different kind of film. Forget it.

      • Jonathan_D_S

        Carson, I’m trying to deal with flashbacks in a new script. I didn’t see any articles dealing with that subject from your archives, so I’m curious to hear your take on un/successful examples. One concern: is the mere presence of a flashback an immediate red flag, or just a poorly executed one?

  • FD

    I mean, of course, the draft of the SLP script reviewed here.

  • garrett_h

    I saw Broken City this weekend… :(

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Danny-Gordon/10615440 Danny Gordon

      Which sucks bec that script was genuinely great. Just goes to highlight that film really is a director’s medium. Great script will mean nothing if you don’t have the right talent bringing it to life

  • Bella_Lugossi

    Dumping days or not, Mama’s top of the box office: almost 30 million $ so far.

  • Xarkoprime

    I think Carson must have been in a seriously good mood while watching this movie to give it such high praise. I guess that’s the funny thing about opinions.

    I almost walked out of this movie 30-40 minutes in (and I’ve seen a ton of movies and never walked out) because I was so bored and the scares were gimmicky.

    A lot of the suspenseful and scary things that happened are dulled because the film chooses dramatic irony over mystery. From the opening scene you see Mama and from the logline you know what the movie is about, so when you see the younger sister playing tug of war with something while the other sister is in plain view, you know its Mama instead of thinking: oh shit, what the hell is that? It’s not creepy because the kids are in no danger. It makes it kind of boring.

    It does get good however, for about 30 minutes or so, when it drops the cheap scares and Jessica Chastain is alone with these kids in the house, creepy humming and such, but then it goes right back to the things I’ve seen before so many times. You can only see something charge at you in the dark while a camera flashes so many times before you’ve had enough. Really? Again? The beginning is filled with jump scares of the kids jumping out of random places, and then the latter half of the second act is filled with Mama creeping up behind characters while they stand there and you can see behind them… Nothing new.

    And then that ending. For real? Could it have gotten any more corny? Or empty? Spoilers: so Jessica Chastain only loved the one child? Doesn’t matter if Mama takes the other? Sure I’m okay with movies not having happy endings, but this turned out to be an I don’t care ending. Yes, Chastain completes her arc of wanting to be a mother, but emotional enough to make you cry? I won’t judge, but this movie was the furthest thing away from being emotional than anything I’ve watched all year.

    not worth the price of admission for me, kinda bummed I wasted money on seeing it.

  • JNave

    I had no interest in seeing this movie, but now I just have to. I used to love horror, but I’ve been underwhelmed with the offerings over the last decade or so and I usually don’t like supernational stuff. But I (mostly) trust Carson’s judgment and now this is a must see for me, though more likely as a Redbox rental.

  • Poe_Serling

    Warning: I only skimmed the review so as not to ruin the experience of seeing the film in the theater for myself.

    But I did pick up on a few things…

    Slowly but surely Carson is turning to the dark side… no, I don’t mean that he’s a distant cousin of Darth Vader (though my guess he might like to be).

    What I do mean is that he’s starting to appreciate the efforts of creating a solid horror film/script.

    By his own admission over the years, Carson is not much of a thrills and chills guy. Per his review from above:

    “I remember seeing the preview in the theater a month ago and laughing. You had kids crawling around like spiders while the word “Mama” was echoed theatrically in a child’s voice. I didn’t see any way this could be anything other than awful.”

    So, here’s my question for Carson…. even though initially you didn’t have any interest in the film, what ultimately changed your mind to spend the ten bucks and take a chance on it?

    • RayFinkleLacesOut

      Probably wanted to spend some time with a special lady friend who wanted to see it would be my guess…and horror movies have quite the ability to lead dates down a good path.

      • Poe_Serling

        Can’t argue with that sound logic. ;-)

  • Zadora

    Good to see great horror films. After reading the review, I realize how terrible my own horror scripts are. :-/

  • Poe_Serling

    And oh, it should be noted that Guillermo del Toro served as executive producer on the Mama film.

    What a helluva coach to have on your sidelines…

    The man knows the ‘ins and outs’ of horror filmmaking. As writer/director, he gave us Cronos, Mimic, The Devil’s Backbone, etc. As producer – The Orphanage, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and so on.

    I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that the script for his latest project Crimson Peak will someday materialize in my inbox.

    It’s a gothic romance set in a haunted house with the emphasis on haunted. Plus, I just saw the leads are Charlie Hunnam and Emma Stone.

    Beads of cold sweat are already dampening my forehead in anticipation of that particular film’s release.

    • ElliotMaguire

      The only disappointment in that list for me was Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. It just felt too staged and thin, with the usual idiot character choices and moves.

      But the rest, hell yeah, Del Toro’ cool. At The Mountains of Madness please!

      What’s your favourite Del Toro movie?

      • Poe_Serling

        Gotta agree with you about Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark… I’m a huge fan of the TV movie, so I did have high hopes when del Toro was involved with the remake. For a lot of obvious reasons, it didn’t capture the creepiness of the original.

        And my favorite del Toro movie?

        I’m going with Mimic. I can already hear the hisses from the fans of Hellboy,
        Pan’s Labyrinth , and so forth.

        But I will pose this ? ….

        Who wouldn’t want to come face to face with a giant cockroach. ;-)))

        • ElliotMaguire

          Finally another Mimic fan! The title sequence, the goo, the balls to kill off the two wiseass kids, I loved it.

          I do love Pans Labyrinth, and can see that it is his most overall accomplished piece, but the one I always go back to…Blade 2. The sheer energy, vibrancy, pace and amount of violence he managed to shove into a superhero movie has never been topped.

          • Poe_Serling

            My favorite visual from the flick was when the creature folded/unfolded into its human shape…. maybe that’s the real reason Carson is always photographed in a veiled hoodie. ;-)


            To be honest, it completely slipped my mind that del Toro directed Blade 2 – you’re right that pic had energy to burn.

        • Avishai

          Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’s biggest failing, to me, was the creature design. And the fact it wasn’t kept hidden most of the time. Story itself worked for me.

          Pan’s Labyrinth is awesome. Hellboy movies too. Looking forward to Pacific Rim.

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, Pacific Rim this summer, then Crimson Peak…. it’s aaaallllll good.

            I like how del Toro seesaws between the big budget stuff and smaller horror things like Mama.

    • Ambrose*


      I thought you might be interested, this boxoffice article tells how hands on del Toro was in the production of ‘Mama’.

      • Poe_Serling

        Thanks for sharing… del Toro did have his fingerprints all over this project!

        • http://twitter.com/ErrantFilms Errant Films

          If you get the chance, you should watch this if you want to see something really scary:


          I saw it years ago and it terrified me. I would not be surprised that the film makers saw it too, and Del Toro. A shame that Dennison has been overlooked. He is now directing Coffin Joe films in Brazil. The last one Embodiment of Evil was hilarious.

          • Poe_Serling

            I’ll definitely check out. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/LisaAldin Lisa Aldin

    I enjoyed Mama. The ending was devastating and surprising. I do kind of wonder how they’re going to explain everything to the police though. =)

  • denisniel

    I hate it when people I trust recommend movies that I usually wouldn’t give a crap about, because it makes me eager to go see them… And it makes me feel like a jerk to not consider these movies in the first place…
    Maybe that’s a good thing, actually…

    • bruckey

      I wrote it off as another horror movie and was wondering why chastain was in it

      • Peace of Mind

        That’s what I thought too — what the hell is Miss Oscar nominee doing in this? Heard she doesn’t want to be “put in a box.”

        And add Guillermo del Toro to the advertising/poster and you’re gonna get a nice chunk of audience just for that.

        Haven’t seen it yet, but it sounds like the writers made a bunch of smart choices. Box office: it almost doubled #2, ZDT and it did double the other two new releases, combined = Impressive.

        Here’s a link to the Short the movie was based on — w/ an intro by del Toro.

        • NajlaAnn

          That short is really good. Excellent Mama special effects too.

        • bruckey

          so what does jessica chastain box look like ?
          is it red?

  • DrMatt

    Where the hell are you going to the movies that you’re paying 18 dollars?

    • http://twitter.com/jaexhkim jae kim

      he probably took a hot date…

  • crazedwritr

    I was actually on the fence about going to see this one, but because of the review — I’m all in!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Danny-Gordon/10615440 Danny Gordon

    Carson, I read that del Toro was extremely hands on. Helping with storyboards, revising script, rehearsal, casting, etc.

  • DeadLineS

    This movie was such a great reminder of the following rule: earn your “flaw passes.”
    Litterally,some things that were completely silly in this movie, with HUGE coincidences. Usually, I’m like “yeah……that sucks” but I really could not for this one because the writing was most of the time SO FREAKING TIGHT.

    I went to this movie tinking “if I’m not scared, the horror movie is dead to me” because I wasn’t scared by any movie since The Eye part 1 (korean version)…that’s a LONG TIME. I was not scared, but I loved the movie because this was such a great story. I did not get what I expected but I was so much INTO the movie I could not help but love it.

    The main character is so well made it made me cringe. I loved her introduction. The first thing we see her doing is checking if she’s pregnant. She’s not = THANK YOU GOD. Everybody laughed in the theater, but the purpose was that we now know that she does not want any kids. Any scene with her was a blast. It was really interesting to watch her starting to feel something for the kids (that scene with the younger girl trying to make her hands warm wow…).

    The interesting thing is that her anti-mother nature becomes her flaw as soon as she HAS to be a mother. Also, the all motherhood theme is directly connected to the main character’s flaw and the antagonist’s goal.

    Victoria was intriguing and mature at the same time while Lily was FUN/CUTE/GROSS all at the same time.

    Using different characters to convey different views of the same theme is a great tool, here we have one girl ready to accept Annabel’s love while the other one just won’t do it. Why?

    Because the writers were SHARP with the writing. She’s younger. It is established pretty early in the story that she was too young to remember basic language abilities. She grew up only knowing “Mama” when the other even remembered what her father looked like. Other writers would have chose to make both kids the same age or something like that, but this is just perfect here.

    A lot of other details really made me LOVE THIS story (the tedybear, Anabel’s headphones, etc..) that was just really good writing, I thought.

    When it comes to the thing I didn’t like, I thought we saw Mama way too much and too early. She wasn’t THAT scary or intriguing after only a few minutes. Also, the uncle was useless and unlikeable. Besides, he gets out of the forest after hours, in the night and EXACTLY AT THAT MOMENT Annabel drives through that point of the road….really???

    Other than that, Chastain was absolutely impressivie, Megan Charpentier was really good for her age and Isabelle Nélisse will win an oscar one day, mark my words this girl was EXCELLENT.

    Some flaws here and there, but that was a good movie I thought, It kept my interest until the end, I laughed and was touched by the girls.

    I thing I would tell anybody to go see it just because of the visuals though. The production value was crazy and the director always had really cool ideas to make a simple scene more powerful.

  • sweetvita

    Hmmm… sounds like this movie has the ability to move one’s emotions, too. Based on that glowing review, I’m going to have to see it.

  • NajlaAnn

    Wow, quite an exciting review! Okay, it’s on my watch list. And should screenplay become available….. :)

  • rosemary

    I still want to see this lol

  • harveywilkinson

    Just for the record, not wanting to have kids is not a “flaw.” Carry on!

  • Peace of Mind

    Off topic, anybody ever enter or heard anything about Creative World Awards Screenwriting Competition (CWA)?

    I just got a Withoutabox update/email about it — but I’ve never heard of them before. Curious if it’s worth my $49.00 (Regular deadline by Jan 31).

  • samuel

    I thought the writing was great! but most of the scares were cliche and the CGI wasn’t good.

  • Malibo Jackk

    In watching the short, it’s interesting how music heightens the drama.
    But in a script, your words have to express the music.

  • James Inez

    Man, I got scared just reading your review. There’s no way I’m seeing this freakin movie. Don’t hug me, she’ll get jealous. Creepy.

  • Cfrancis1

    I wanted to like this a lot more. Yes, technically, from a structural point of view it should have been good. But it just didn’t quite come together for me. Characters felt like types (I love Jessica Chastain but even she could only do so much with the independent rocker chick character). The CG was baaaad which made Moma not very scary at all — Scary jerky movements of ghosts are played out. Ending felt phoned in.

    From a screenplay POV, it’s good. Execution was just okay.

  • Jonathan_D_S

    So refer to it as “Memory” or something to avoid saying “Flashback”?

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    Bonjour French Guy :-)
    Do you write reviews for a website ? If so, which one ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.hoover1 Stephen Hoover

    The critics don’t seem to agree. MAMA is at 62% or RT (btw, LOOPER at 93%). Jessica Chastain did a great job. Script was straight out of the Korean RINGU school (ghost of person out for revenge; protag must right the wrong to defeat the ghost). Entertaining popcorn flick but nothing special or worth seeing again.

    SPOILERS: Fun to imagine the conversation the couple had with the cops after the film ends. “So you came up here with two children and allowed one to jump off the cliff?” “No, the ghost of this suicidal woman came up here …” “And you had a dead baby in a box?” “Well it was her baby….” “And the aunt of the kids fighting you for custody is dead in the cabin?” “I think we need to talk to our lawyer before answering any more questions.” Jail time for negligent homicide for our protagonists and foster parents for the survivor.

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    Just asking since you went to the BIFFF :-) I know it’s an open film festival but since I write for a (French) website, I know lots of other journalists/bloggers so just wondering…

  • Odogg32F

    Okay I now have to see this film. Lots of positive feedback. The trailer seems to be like any other horror flick. It will be a nice surprise.

  • blueiis0112

    I loved “Mimic” because all the roaches got killed. I figured that they would be the only “thing” to survive a nuclear blast, the ugly little shits. I also loved “The Exorcist” because it was documented on an actual event. But, “Mama” sounds like it will be #3 on my horror favorites list. So, Carson, I’ve put it on my Netflix list to watch. I love horror movies, but am very spoiled by the fact that so many lack imagination. Most I’ve seen lately are only as good as their trailer, which is really depressing.

  • carsonreeves1

    I didn’t hate Looper. Just thought it was terribly written.

  • Gunnerkat

    Any kind soul that can send me the script? I would really love to read it…davemac1375@yahoo.com

  • rood

    yeah, i should say that this movie is fantastic, new fresh style of character, a new fresh plot and they got both not just horror but drama as well for a horror movie. I’ve been searching for a new fresh plot of horror movie and just last night i found one and for it is very magnificent. I bought the movie just not expecting anything that is out of ordinary but when after it started after 6-7 minutes, i just continuing wacthing this mov. the best way to find out whether it is good or not, just go and see it urself.