What’s ‘Mama’ About, Anyway?

Is it a ghost, or psychological trauma? Or just plain ol' ghost-wolves?
by Patrick Emmel

For the past few weeks, one word has haunted our ears continuously on television, radio, and anywhere that movie trailers may pop up: Mama. What could this movie hold based on a previews of fast-cutting, strobe-lighting, and a faint glimpse at a rotting female figure? With this “Shot In The Dark” preview, we will attempt to find out guess.

Let’s be honest: trailers don’t usually give the whole story of a movie, nor should it. If we watched a 30-second preview and figured out what the movie is about and how it ends, there really isn’t much reason to actually watch the movie itself. Unless you’re like me and enjoy guessing all the plot points five minutes into the film, which is why people really don’t like going to the movie theater with me anymore.

Horror movies barely even give character associations in the preview, which is fine because a good explanation in a trailer for a horror movie is akin to a magician showing you how a magic trick is done even before showing you the actual trick. In Mama, we’re given a fast, non-linear scene barrage whose sole purpose is to make your hair stand on edge. For me, mission accomplished.

But besides the idea that this movie is supposed to be creepy, what else can I surmise about the film? Glad you asked. Well, glad I think you asked.

Guillermo del Toro Wins at Presenting

When it comes fantasy horror, no one does it better than Guillermo del Toro. Whether he is directing, writing, or just putting his name to a production credit, del Toro has constantly connected himself to some of the scariest and well-developed thrillers released in the past ten years. Films such as The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, and The Orphanage create worlds that give viewers chills, not just because of scene set-ups and cinematography but also because the stories are equally compelling and bone-chilling.

Pan’s Labyrinth wasn’t just scary because of the demons that Ofelia came across. Her real life in fascist-led Spain was just as morbid. The ghosts in The Orphanage weren’t nearly as scary as the activities that lead the deaths of the children. With Mama, the mental anguish of post-traumatic stress disorder in lost children once again may be more compelling and frightening than the apparent ghost of “Mama”.

The theme of lost children seems to be prevalent in most of del Toro’s work, even the Hellboy series, and Mama should continue this legacy by playing with physical, emotional, and psychological fear.

Being Raised by Wolves is Not Always Funny

While we don’t know for sure if the children in Mama were raised by wolves for five years in their secluded cottage by just watching the trailer, the comparison stems from more humorous tales of children lost in the wilderness. The film that comes to mind right away is Howie Mandel’s Walk Like a Man.

mama howie1 Whats Mama About, Anyway?

Christopher Lloyd may not be as scary as an undead mother stalking the halls of her children’s adoptive parents in this 80s comedy, but Walk Like a Man makes Mama seem even creepier considering how far the film strays from Howie Mandel with hair barking like a dog. Twisting a popularly cute idea into something morbid is a technique that usually works well. Just look at what Pennywise did for clowns in the movie It.

This same idea applies to kids in horror movies as well. The popular idea is that children are sweet, innocent, and full of life. When you see one stalking the halls with a vacant stare in a horror movie, that idea is, sometimes literally, torn apart. Just look at such films as The Ring, The Exorcist, The Omen, Children of the Corn, and every zombie kid in the history of horror.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is the Danish It-Guy

mama nikolaj Whats Mama About, Anyway? Oh, you again? Yes, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is back again. While he is now best known as the sister-loving Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones, Nikolaj has been taking the Hollywood pavement like the slow flooding of a minor rain-storm. This may not seem that intense, but considering only 15% of the movie-going public know how to pronounce his name but 95% know his face, Nikolaj’s popularity will continue to grow.

Just last year, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was involved in the Butch Cassidy resurrection in Blackthorn and co-starred in the critically acclaimed Headhunters. With a starring role in Mama under his belt, he’s diversifying even further.

How Many Times Can We Repeat “Mama” in One Trailer?

mama1 Whats Mama About, Anyway? If there’s one thing that everyone can take away from the trailer for Mama, it is that these two kids have severe mommy issues. They must, considering they said “Mama” constantly in the teaser trailer before the extended official trailer above.

How many times did they say it? Six times, not including how many times the word was put up on the screen. I think it’s safe to say, “we get it,” but at the same time we really don’t get it at all. That’s the magic of films that Guillermo del Toro is connected to. There’s always a twist but, unlike M. Night Shylamalan (whose twist would have probably ended up making Mama a man), the twist of the movie will be much more psychologically compelling than a gimmick.

thebay poster Whats Mama About, Anyway?


Patrick Emmel has been a horror fanatic since he was 7 years old, when he was afraid to walk in ivy patches after seeing Carrie . You can see more of his work at www.theineptowl.com or heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.

Patrick recently reviewed the political eco-horror of The Bay. –>

More from The Man Behind Patrick Emmel

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