BY MICHELLE MEDFORD
As a huge fan of horror, I don’t take horror reviews seriously (I trust horror publications a bit more, and fellow horror fanatics and friends the most). Unless you’re a fan of horror, I don’t feel that you can produce an accurate review of a horror film, and I don’t feel that most staffers at mainstream publications are huge horror fans, the rare breed that we are. If you don’t love the genre and enjoy analyzing it, you aren’t looking at horror through it with the same eyes as the fans. Of course, this can also be said of other genres, but horror (er, good horror) is one of the less accessible genres and dealing with sometimes supernatural, unlikely, exaggerated and unbelievable themes (though not always), it’s not often taken seriously (by critics and filmmakers alike, see: my Possession review). Thus, I couldn’t care less when reviews of horror movies come in.
However, for some reason, I did this time. At first, I had low expectations for Mama. The marketing made it look cheesy and they were relying so heavily on Guillermo Del Toro’s producing credit, as if the film couldn’t stand on its own. But then the reviews started to come in, and I wasn’t really paying attention until I saw a really great tweet from a publication about it. I can’t find it now, but the gist of it was that Mama was a very well-written and thoughtful ghost story (note: I live for ghost stories, in movies and real life). Probably as a result of my combined love for ghost stories, Del Toro and Jessica Chastain, plus how badly I wanted to be scared (well, isn’t that why we watch them?), I thought this movie was going to be good. Like, Insidious good. Like, I-can’t-sleep-at-night-because-“Mama”-is-coming-to-get-me good.
It wasn’t, I’m sad to say (sad for myself, sad for the movie, sad for Del Toro… ah, not so much Del Toro). At best, it was trying really hard to tell a story (or stories) we’ve heard before, with a strong cast and production. However, (unlike The Possession) at least it was trying. There were some nice mythical, imaginative elements, seemingly influenced by Del Toro when you think of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (terrible!) and Pan’s Labyrinth (amazing!), but then there were subplots that led nowhere, and clear attempts to turn trite ideas into fresh ones through over-worked dialogue (just because you word it differently doesn’t mean it’s not an old idea being rehashed). I guess that’ll teach me for trusting a horror review. Guillermo, next time, just do it all yourself.