The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Universal - 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 100 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Carpentier, Isabelle Nelisse, Daniel Kash
Directed by: Andy Muschiette
Music by: Fernando Velazquez
Written by: Andy Muschiette, Barbara Muschiette & Neil Cross
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 7, 2013
MAMA is the haunting tale of two little girls who vanish without a trace from their suburban neighborhood the day that their parents were killed. But when the young sisters are found alive years later in a decrepit cabin, their uncle (Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend, Annabel (Chastain), take them in. As they try to introduce the children to a normal life, Annabel begins to wonder if the traumatized girls are the only guests they have welcomed into their home or if someone or something still wants to come tuck them in at night.
Mama revolves around two little girls, Victoria and Lily, whose father after committing a heinous crime, takes them and goes on the run. In an attempt to hide he stumbles upon an abandoned/dilapidated/remote cabin in the woods. Once inside it quickly becomes evident that they are not alone and soon the girls find themselves orphaned or do they? There is a dark presence/entity residing there that “looks after” the girls for five years. When they are found half starved and wild their paternal uncle and his girlfriend take them in hoping to re-assimilate them into normal life. Unfortunately it isn’t going to be that simple. The children, especially Lily, are having difficultly adapting to life away from the cabin. Victoria has nightmares, resists affectionate advances and seems to live in inexplicable fear. It isn’t long before her fears are realized as the dark presence won’t leave them and begins to target those it deems as a threat to Victoria and Lily.
As a fan of the genre as well as Jessica Chastain I looked forward to reviewing Mama on Blu-ray but the trailer didn’t urge me to check it out during its theatrical run. Seeing Guillermo Del Toro’s affiliation with it I figured it would be the type of film that would be both visually and eerily stimulating. The film is based on co-writer/director Andy Muschiette and co-writer/producer Barbara Muschiette’s 2008 Spanish language short film of the same name. There are some problems with both the premise and script. The story isn’t properly developed and among other things doesn’t provide enough tangible background on the entity although it does offer the reason why it “adopts” the girls. The idea of a spirit with predominantly good, although obviously misguided, intentions as the story’s ominous evil kind of makes it less effective as an antagonist.
Additionally character development for the main players is poor which essentially leaves you disconnected to them. Lastly, the elements of horror play out with fairly predicable results which water them down. That isn’t to say that there aren’t one or two decent jump scares but overall the film really just didn’t leave me thinking about it once it was over which I find is the mark of a good horror movie. As an aside I didn’t care for the Annabel/Jessica Chastain combination. The character is drawn as a tattoo covered gothic looking bass player in a hard rock band. That might be fine but the paring with JC didn’t physically work which proved to be a distraction for me although she played the role well enough. I will say that I watched the original short film from which Mama is derived and found it to be well done and effectively creepy.
It would probably be unfair to say that Mama is a bad film. It’s thematically moody enough to keep interest going but close attention to the storyline and character development leaves it feeling muddled and lacking in the kinds of chills that help it linger afterward.
The rating is for violence and terror, some disturbing images and thematic elements.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Mama comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Studios HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 28 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.7 Mbps.
This film utilizes a dark and singular chromatic visual style that doesn’t lend itself to overly vibrant colors and high gloss video quality. There are instances where brighter elements/deeper color extension are utilized and the contrast allows them to pop visually. Otherwise onscreen images predominantly lean toward darker sepia tones and grittier textures that provide the look that the filmmakers use to drive the story’s components. This is done to good effect. Shadow delineation is quite good and revealing of subtle details within dark backgrounds and low lighting which enhances visual depth. Stable contrast and dynamic blacks allow scenes containing mixed content to appear gradationally satisfying with crisp whites and discernible dark highlights. Resolution is excellent as images are characterized by definitively rendered detail that gives the video appreciable dimension and delineated texture. This is the case in all but a few instances where definition softens and doesn’t retain the same level of lucidity.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix does an excellent job rendering the film’s soundtrack. Dialogue has excellent intonation and clarity which allows even subtle changes in vocal pitch to be appreciable. This is a well balanced audio presentation that quite often engages the entire system. Dynamic range is excellent and the soundstage has an open expression that allows its elements to extend well into the room. Discrete rear channel activity isn’t extensive however the elements of fright provide an enriching level of immersion generated by a seamless sound field. The LFE channel is frequently active and reproduces the film’s music and extended lower bass frequencies with palpably rich extension.
- Feature commentary by co-writer/director Andy Muschietti & co-writer/producer Barbara Muschietti
- (HD) Mama: Original short with introduction by Guillermo Del Toro & commentary by Andy & Barbara Muschietti – 4 minutes
- (HD) 6 deleted scenes with optional commentary by Andy & Barbara Muschietti
- (HD) The birth of Mama – 9 minute featurette
- (HD) Matriarchal secrets: The visual effects of Mama – 6 minute featurette
- Bonus DVD
- Digital Copy
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
- BD-Live enabled
Mama is based on co-writer/director Andy Muschiette and co-writer/producer Barbara Muschiette’s 2008 Spanish language short film of the same name. It capably sets the thematic tone of the source material but its muddled storyline and underdeveloped characters rob it of hair raising chills and evocative horror. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Studios Home Entertainment featuring gratifying high definition audio/video and an above average supplement package that includes the original film short, deleted scenes and plenty of insightful information from the filmmakers. If you’re already a fan this is worth picking up otherwise going in with reserved expectations might make for a decent rental.
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