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“Mama” is a ghost movie. It is not a horror film, mind you, it is neither scary or violent or gory or terrifying enough for that. It reminded me (especially in the final scene) more of the kind of fairy tale (involving a ghost) that children would tell each other at nighttime under their blankets, candle burning  and threatening to set the whole children’s room alight.

Structure, perspective, characters, resolution all point towards the things kids find scary (fundamentally so: abandonment, loss of parents, neglect, solitude, darkness), so I must  admit the scary bits did not work for me. People my age know I need to call Dr. Venkman when encountering a ghost in the attic, so I am in no danger from Mama, but the characters in this film (as in most ghost movies) take a long time to come up with the obvious solution, to the point that the writers apparently found themselves in a bad mess of a narrative cul-de-sac and did actually (actually!) turn to the most blunt and embarrassing resolution to point the characters: making somebody appear to tell them “Go back to the cottage!” Ok, got it, they have to go back to the cottage, and sorry if was laughing at the scene…

The actors are not bad, mostly (only when they are forced to say things like “Go back to the cottage!”): Jamie Lannister looks better than in Game of Thrones recently (not just because he grew his hand back in “Oblivion” and has taken some baths since…), and there’s nothing you can do to make Jessica Chastain look stupid (even though they sometimes tried hard here). The child actors are also convincing, at least when they show up in person, their cgi’ed personalities were a bit too … the whole cgi, actually.

But that brings me back to the starting point: the whole design is kid-scary (Mama’s floating hair, bent physique and all), and as that, I suppose it works. Whether the film is actually suitable for the audience it will work best for is something that’s hard to judge. But fairy tales are often rough, so why not take your 10-year-old and see how long the nightmares will keep your family up…

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mama_2013/

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