Monday, January 21, 2013

Hush Little Movie Don't Say A Word

I wish Mama were worse. It'd be less frustrating if it were irredeemable dreck than it is to have all these little kernels of great ideas and visuals hovering around it, popping their head out now and again, like a game of creative whack-a-mole. In the end it's just an aimless soup of ideas, made bland by its own indecision, but it didn't have to be that way! 

Take for example what I found to be the most effectively horrifying image in the film. Spoilers, ho. If you've seen the previews, you know the gist - two little girls were abandoned in the woods and got raised by a possibly evil ghost lady, and when they're rescued and brought back to civilization the possibly evil ghost lady comes with them, cue scares. The lovely and talented Jessica Chastain (shot here by a camera obsessed with her cleavage and not much else) is taking care of the girls (she dates their uncle). She is asleep and she has a bad dream, which puts her in the shoes of the possibly evil ghost lady, letting her (and in turn we, the audience) see what the possibly evil ghost lady's back-story is. It is of course of terribly important we learn this in every ghost movie, so we know how to vanquish the evil spirit. 

Anyway Jessica Chastain wakes up and realizes there's something under her bed and the camera pans down and we see that the possibly evil ghost lady is down there actually digging her way up through the mattress underneath Jessica Chastain.Dude! That is scary! An entire movie could be based on the idea of that image, you know? The Monster Under The Bed is an old staple but The Monster Under The Bed gets us when we try to get off the bed, they grab at our ankles, or they come crawling around up one side and we don't know which side they're coming from - that's how The Monster Under The Bed works! The Monster Under The Bed shredding apart the mattress underneath you is not right!

And that's what makes is SO right. But the movie doesn't do anything with that. The ghost lady doesn't even end up coming up through the mattress - two seconds later she pops up around the side, just like they always do. Boring ol' ghost lady. And that ends up just being a toss off moment three quarters of the way through a movie stuffed to the gills with similarly not streamlined ideas. It feels like a first draft. Motivations are murky if we're lucky; mostly they're just not bothered with. If the movie wanted to focus on anything we could probably work out a character arc for Jessica Chastain, she's trying to find a through-line the whole time, but it's only interested in that in quick pauses between making an undulating wig scurry across a floor. But if I'm going to complain about Jessica Chastain's character being riddled with inconsistencies then it's best I not even address what they give Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to work with. He gets the full twins and coma treatment, adding up to nothing much. The two little girl actresses are actually terrific kid actors though. If only the movie had cared as much for their story as ghost lady did for them.


Jasper said...

Yes. YES. I agree with all of your points.

I hated how both of the hero leads just have, y'know, psychic dream-visions that fill them in on important information they need to know for the plot to advance.

Also (VAGUE SPOILERS): What Mama does at the ending. I mean, why didn't she just... do that in the prologue of the movie? What was stopping her if that was her ultimate way to secure what she wanted?

I did laugh at the clerk who helps the doctor. Man, it was like she was waiting to deliver those ominous backstory monologues for DECADES.

Jason Adams said...

YES! That woman was amazing. I was hypnotized by her long braid and her wolf tee shirt. :)

Jasper said...

Hahahaaa, that shirt. I'd forgotten!

Question for you: Was the appearance of "MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA" on the hospital computer screen supposed to be part of the dude's dream, or was that actually happing? It's stupid either way, I guess. I just find one a little more objectionable than the other.

Fun fact: I'm not sure if you love Mean Girls as much as I do, but the lead singer of Jessica Chastain's rock band was the girl who made out with a hot dog. ("Oh my god, that was ONE TIME!")

Jason Adams said...

Ugh don't remind me of that computer screen thing, so super fucking lame.

But AWESOME catch on that actress, I love Mean Girls. HAHAHA

Jasper said...

Did I seriously type "happening" as "happing"? Okay.

I blame the MAMA computer bug.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised. I know you're a fan, but I truly feel that every thing del Toro does is crap. he's absolutely unwatchable to me, whether he's directing or producing. I avoid anything his name is attached to.

Anonymous said...

I went to see this movie yesterday. What a letdown