Friday, November 1, 2013
Horror Challenge #106: "Mama"
The things that happen to these poor girls in this movie are indeed horrible. Their parents are dispatched early in the movie, and they wind up cold and alone in a creepy abandoned cabin in the woods with only the spirit of a long dead woman to raise them. They regress to an almost animal like state, and they live that way for five years because the police in this town are the most incompetent police ever to wander into a horror movie. Once the girls are finally rescued, they go to live with their uncle who never gave up on the hope of finding them, and then creepy things start happening because it seems that the ghost that kept the girls safe all those years in the woods doesn't want them to leave her...ever.
The thing about horror movies is that often, even the dumbest B horror movies follow the age old pattern of fairy tales: there's a natural order to the world, and something comes along to disrupt that natural order, and something must happen to restore that natural order so that good can triumph over evil. For example, parents are supposed to love and care for their children and protect their children, but when parents do terrible things to their children, something must happen to stop that evil from touching the children, so that the children can go back to being loved and cared for and protected again, so that the world can be restored to the way it should be. Even campy slasher movies have hints of this pattern (people are happy, bad guy starts killing them, someone defeats bad guy so people can go back to living and being happy)..
In "Mama," the natural order of the world is subverted in a bunch of ways in just the first ten minutes of the movie. Spouses are supposed to love and protect their partners, not do terrible things to them, parents are supposed to love and protect and raise their children, not kill them, and that's shot all to hell right from the start in this movie, but someone comes along to set things right. I really like how at first, the mother figure who will be caring for the girls, their aunt, the wife of the uncle who never gave up on them, is a reluctant hero in that she doesn't really want her role as protector of the children, but she slowly comes to love them and is thus willing to fight for them. That really got to me.
I also like how the movie subverts your expectations, because like I said, the expectation is that something comes along to threaten the order of things (the children are put in danger) and something else must battle that evil to restore order (stop the evil, protect the children) and then in this movie, that "protector," the ghost who initially saved and cared for the children, turns sinister and evil when it seems that she will lose the children, because they will come to love their new caregivers and thus won't need her anymore. Most movies wouldn't have the guts to do what this movie does, which is basically rip my heart out and make me really sad and angry, like every other Guillmero Del Toro movie does, making me sad even when his movies have a happy ending. The movie isn't perfect, it does some things wrong, like it probably relies too much on CGI, and the cops are dumber than a bag of rocks, so that irks me, but overall it's a dark and nasty little glimpse into the world that I really respected for what it does right.