Grandma Approved: Mama (2013)

Sometimes the audience can tell you about the movie you’re about to see. Imagine my confusion when I walked into the theater to see Mama and the only other patron was a small, blue-haired old lady. I couldn’t help myself. I stared, slack-jawed. After a couple minutes my wife bumped me.

“What in the hell is your problem?” she asked.

“Does that poor lady know what’s playing? This isn’t a heart-felt movie about someone’s mother.” I was completely incredulous. Was someone with her, off in the restroom? Had she been dropped off? I wanted to go talk to her. I felt compelled to tell her this was a scary movie. 

But then I though, I’m being a bit presumptuous aren’t I? Just because she’s a senior citizen doesn’t mean she needs help.

Despite my consternation, I let it go. Mostly.

No one ever showed up. This octogenarian was there on her own. She had come specifically to see the movie. I can only speculate as to why she was there, but how fucking cool would it be to have a grandma who goes to see horror movies—on her own. 

Meema, you are AWE-some! But I’ve digressed enough.

It is said that a mother’s love is forever (and that is also the tagline). It is also said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Mix the two you get  some serious shit. If said mother was insane, like committed for eating her own shit insane, the world is fucked.

The latter is the mother in Mama. She is terrifying, but it is her adopted daughters, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse), who really bring the horror to the film.  Megan and Isabelle are absolutely brilliant. I’ve heard you never want to work with animals and children because of their unpredictability. These girls, who I guess are roughly 10 and 8 respectively, are the definition of “the exception to the rule.” They own their performances, which is incredible considering that for most of the movie they have no lines. They growl and run on all fours. They absolutely are feral children.

Any great film, regardless of genre, makes you love the characters. Mama does this in spades. Best of all, while the story tugs your heart, the ending is dark but strangely hopeful. Guillermo Del Toro’s sensibility is very strong in this film, echoing themes, structure and characters from his films The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. Mama will no doubt join supernatural horror classics like Poltergeist, The Omen, The Exorcist, et. al.

Oh, and just so you know, though I never spoke with old lady, I overheard her conversation with a couple a few seats down from her. She liked Mama. So, don’t take my word for it, listen to grandma. Grandma always knows what’s best.

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