Sister Sister – ★★½
Andrés Muschietti has taken his 2008 short Mamá and with the help of Guillermo del Toro turned it into a feature length film. Starring one of the women of the moment Jessica Chastain, Mama tells the story of how two little girls left alone in the woods return back to society accompanied by a very jealous friend.
Tapping into the recent financial circumstances of many people Mama opens with an unfortunately all too familiar scenario. Husband loses everything and decides to kill all his family and himself. Taking his two daughters up to a cabin in the woods, Jeffrey intends to finish the job but is stopped by an unusual creature. Said creature then goes about looking after the children for the next five years. Jeffrey’s brother Lucas (both played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) doesn’t lose faith though and keeps a team searching for them during this time. When at last they are found, Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) are now responsible for the feral children, although they aren’t the only ones concerned for the girls’ well being.The film is well paced and trundles through the set quickly with enough jumps to keep the average horror fan interested. It’s hard to buy into Chastain being a goth rocker who hates children and then caves easily to become the most important person in the girls lives. The child acting is perfect, combining the right amount of venerability with menace as we all know how terrifying children can appear. Megan Charpentier plays the older daughter Victoria while Isabelle Nélisse takes the role of the younger more wild Lilly. Keeping with good horror tradition we don’t see Mama for a large period of time, she is merely hinted at in the shadows or with a twirl of hair.
Daniel Kash is Dr. Dreyfuss, a psychologist responsible for readjusting the girls to normal society and it is he who begins to get to the bottom of the person called Mama. The story behind the character is intriguing and makes sense although some of the CGI goes too far and makes her seem cartoon-ish. The film isn’t nearly original enough in its execution and is merely following the recent spate of horror films formula. You can tell when the jumps are going to come and how the plot will reach it’s conclusion. While the ending is by no means a Hollywood affair, it seems quite safe in its own way if not a tad daft.
As I mentioned earlier Chastain doesn’t set the screen alight but seems to be on the crest of a wave with both Mama and Zero Dark Thirty being no 1 and 2 in the American box office upon this film’s release. Waldau is fine as both brothers but doesn’t have much to do leaving the film up to the daughters to carry, a job they are more than capable of completing. With knowledge of the genre and nods to the classics such as The Amityville Horror and having the experience of Guillermo to hand, Mama was never going to be a bad film. It’s a shame that we got an average forgettable effort leaving Insidious as the bench mark from recent years.
Spain, Canada / Directed By: Andrés Muschietti / Written By: Paul Andrew Williams / Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier / 100min / Horror / Release: 22 February 2013 (Ireland, UK), 18 January 2013 (USA, Canada)