Bee in my bonnet – Mama

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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatahu, sisters and brothers,

So I recently saw lauded horror movie Mama at the cinema with my hubby. It was a much-anticipated event for him, a much-dreaded one for me. See, I don’t like horror movies. I don’t like being scared. The better the movie, the worse trouble I have sleeping.

Anyway I went because I love Guillermo del Toro and I wanted to see what his protégé had learned.

Apparently not very much. Here is my review from a screenwriter’s perspective.

The Good:

Beautifully shot. I’ve never seen death and desolation treated so lovingly. Two gorgeous kids that anyone with a heart would root for. Most of the characters had clear histories and clear motivations.

 

There’s some great usage of the good ole horror movie staple, the vagina indentata – if you don’t know what that is, I’m not sure you want to look it up.

I can’t fault structure or pacing. But as always, there are a few things that I can fault.

The Bad:

To reference Blake Snyder, this is one of those Monster in the House movies. The house in question could be a nation – as Independence Day. It also could be a spaceship, as in Alien. The Monster could be a jilted lover, as in Fatal Attraction. Or a shark, as in Jaws. Many variations, but the plot points tend to be the same.

I said above that most characters had a clear motivation. The one exception was Mama. Did she want the children for herself? Did she want her own baby back? We, of course, never get a chance to sit down and chat with the woman but various characters in the movie misdirect us – and that’s really irritating.

However the biggest bugbear I have with this movie is the fact that Mama, the MONSTER, has our sympathy right from the first five minutes. She saves two adorable little girls from having their heads blown off by their not-so-adorable father. We’re immediately on her side.

Later she shelters and feeds the children. Again, we’re with her on that one.

We can’t possibly be frightened of a thing that has a five-year-old giggling. However ugly she is, she can’t be that bad a ‘person’ – so to speak.

Yes, there is a sense of gathering dread as she becomes more and more violent. But we still jolly well don’t know why. Again, super-irritating!

[SPOILER ALERT]

Towards the end of the movie, Mama has a chance to kill both human guardians, something that Victoria, the more expressive of the two kids, keeps warning against. She does not. She simply roughs them up a bit.

We sympathise with the monster – she has a heart still, however long ago it stopped beating.

We also lose the prime element that makes a horror movie a horror movie – namely the horror. If we don’t fear for the protagonist’s lives, there is simply no primal identification with the story.

That made the ending quite weak when it could have had so much power.

Towards the end of a movie, we figure out what she might have wanted, too late and too ambiguous to add potency to the previous 80 minutes.

And another irritating thing – why did that stupid psychiatrist go into a haunted wood cabin all by himself in the night-time without an extra torch? Hasn’t he ever watched any horror movies?

[END OF SPOILERS]

Anyway, I came out of that film feeling mildly dissatisfied. What was great about the short was the insinuation that two little girls were fending off their actual mother who had turned into a zombie/cannibalistic creature.  There’s nothing more primal than your mother wanting to eat you.

In this movie however, the girls were only mildly scared of Mama, if at all.

Will try and review some movies that I actually liked soon.

Bah.

Khayr insha Allah.

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,

The Happy Muslimah

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