“Mama:” Another film of a decidedly played-out genre

Is it too late to make a New Year’s resolution? It’s not a resolution for me — oh no, I never keep them — but for Hollywood. Would it be possible for them to make more than just one or two good horrors per year? Is that too much to ask? You know, I only picked this movie, Mama, because I had a slight hope it would surprise me. It was a false hope, of course.

Taking place in the town of who gives a crap, the story revolves around two little girls whose father goes berserk one day and decides to murder his wife and business partners. Don’t ask me why he does it, because I have no idea. After crashing his car, the man takes his kids to a cabin where he plans to off them and himself. A ghost then intervenes and snaps his neck.

Cut to five years later: the girls are found by the man’s hipster brother. The girls are taken in by him and his hipster wife. They, like most hipsters, spend their time pretending to be artists, refusing to get jobs, and choose to live in a dumpy apartment. The family moves into a new house, but it’s not long after that the ghost shows up and begins to terrorize the family.

Courtesy of Universal

Yeah, so you can tell my enthusiasm for this movie is just oozing out of this review. I’m not sure what to hate more: the frustrating plot holes, the annoying jump scares, or what is possibly some of the worst CGI I have ever seen.

The movie uses some of the most clichéd jump scares possible — hiding under the bed, hiding in the closet, and that stupid circus-freak act, courtesy of The Grudge, where the ghost decides the best way to freak people out is to dislocate its joints in every possible way. Funny thing is, people in the theater were snickering at the film’s clumsy attempts to elicit quick scares. Its only tool was jump scares; the film had no tension and was terribly paced.

Horror movie making 101: show as little of the actual threat as is possible in order to give a sense of mystery and fear of the unknown, and slowly build up to the reveal. What not to do: put the film’s monster on screen within the first 10 god-forsaken minutes.

Did I mention the CGI looks like garbage? Seriously, the two little girls in this film could have drawn a better ghost than the special effects artists did.

The fact is, Mama as a whole had no emotional impact, and only a few hours after watching the film I had forgotten nearly all of the character’s names. I will give it to the writers for trying to go beyond the generic stereotypes that tend to populate this type of horror movie; over the course of the film, Sarah (that’s not her real name, but since I don’t remember it, I have to improvise) learns to become a surrogate for her brother-in-law’s girls. The actors do their job, but they don’t really have a lot to work with as far as a script goes.

I was willing to stick with it through to the end, but in the last five minutes, all hope for a half-decent conclusion is killed. I was furious and regretting not walking out earlier; I stormed out of the theater and drove straight back to my laptop. I needed a strong drink to help me forget about it, and so will you if you waste your money on this.

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