Tag Archives: Guillermo Del Toro

Mama (2013)

“Mama” is a eerily different and creepy ghost story with great performances from the child actors. Young Victoria and Lily (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse) have spent 5 years in a cabin in the woods after their father (Nikolaj Coster-Waldaudies,) alone except for a ghostly presence they call Mama. When they are rescued by and put into the custody their dad’s twin brother (also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his metalhead musician  wife Annabelle (Jessica Chastain,) who doesn’t want the responsibility of kids.

The special thing thing about this movie is the lack of typical ‘bad guys’ (Mama is disturbed and overprotective, but also a tragic figure) and the CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT many horror films lack. You end up both feeling for these little girls (who return to civilization filthy, emaciated and feral) and being a little creeped out by them due to the clever writing and the girl’s great performances.

The CGI can be a little shoddy and there are plot holes present, but that didn’t deter me from enjoying the creepy, emotional, and compelling story. There where some very touching moments and I found myself still becoming uneasy on my second viewing, which hardly ever happens. I found the development of Annabelle’s character and her transformation from rocker with no real responsibilities to devoted surrogate mom fighting a jealous supernatural force interesting.

I will now voice my minority opinion and say this movie was better than the recent supernatural thriller “The Conjuring.” While “The Conjuring” was perhaps a movie with better visual effects and more audience appeal, it never really got me interested in the characters. They were simply victims, struggling against a tide of bizarre supernatural events that were beyond their earthly grasp.

On the other hand, I felt like the characters in “Mama” were well written and developed, and well I thought the young girls were the highlight of the film, the rest of the cast was quite good too. The child actors display range and prowess beyond their young years, and I hope to see more of them in the time to come.

And then there’s ‘Mama’, who’s overall a rather confusing character, but also eerie and ambiguous. You feel for her, and you fear her wrath, in equal measure. I recommend this movie to horror buffs, but also to people who like just a good emotional riveting story. It’s not a horror classic, but it’s worth watching as ‘light horror’ for genre fans and scaredy cats alike.

Cronos (1993)

“Cronos” is a film that starts out promising, then kills itself dead much to the horror of the viewer. Director Guillermo Del Toro is one of today’s most impressive filmmakers, but even he couldn’t resuscitate this dud after a certain point.

   Initially, we are given an interesting premise: pleasant, aging antiques dealer Jesus (Frederico Luppi, who would later go on to play in Del Toro’s great “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Devil’s Backbone”) comes upon a a strange discovery hidden within a statue of an angel in his shop.

   This discovery, as it so happens, is a golden scarab tucked away with the hopes, presumably, of never, ever, being found. Meanwhile, loutish thug Angel (Ron Perlman) is looking for the scarab, which in turn, is doing strange things to Jesus.  

   The scarab contains the secret to eternal life, wherein lies the big question: would you like to live forever, regardless of the consequences? To watch history unfold, but to see your children, your grandchildren age and die before your very eyes?

   Unfortunately, the film trades pathos for kitsch and camp. At times it displays the worst qualities of American cinema: stupidity, coarseness, and crisis of tone. Also, child actor Tamara Sharath plays the completely unbelievable character of Jesus’ granddaughter, Aurora. 

   I mean, this girl is a trooper. She deals with mutilation, injury, a beloved family member coming back as one of the undead with nary a sniffle, let alone a tear. Are we supposed to believe that little girls behave this way, even brave little girls?

   What’s more surprising to me than Guillermo Del Toro’s name on the film is the fact that it was released on Criterion Collection, distinguished as “important contemporary and classic” films from around the world. This is not even a particularly good film, let alone a important or classic one, so crowning it as such boggles the recesses of my mind.

   Please, don’t let this review stop you from seeing Del Toro’s later films. I am in the minority in that I actually like his spooky ghost story, “The Devil’s Backbone,” better than the Oscar winning “Pan’s Labyrinth.” This is, to be fair, Del Toro’s first feature-length film.

   Remember when you couldn’t draw very well? (Maybe you still can’t draw very well, but I digress.) Maybe you drew stick figures, and your mother hung them from the kitchen wall like you were a virtual Van Gogh. Well, this is Guillermo Del Toro’s stick figure to his later Auguste Renoirs, and a reminder that the best of us were amateurs at one time.