Mama (2013 film)

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Mama 2012 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Produced by J. Miles Dale
Barbara Muschietti
Screenplay by Neil Cross
Andy Muschietti
Barbara Muschietti
Story by Andy Muschietti
Barbara Muschietti
Based on Mamá
by Andy Muschietti
Starring Jessica Chastain
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Megan Charpentier
Isabelle Nélisse
Daniel Kash
Javier Botet
Music by Fernando Velázquez
Cinematography Antonio Riestra
Edited by Michelle Conroi
Toma 78
De Milo Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • 18 January 2013 (2013-01-18) (United States)
  • 8 February 2013 (2013-02-08) (Spain)
Running time
100 minutes[1]
Country Spain
United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[2][3]
Box office $146.4 million[3]

Mama is a 2013 English-language Spanish[4][5][6] supernatural horror film directed and co-written by Andy Muschietti in his directional debut and based on his 2008 Argentine short film Mamá. The film stars Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse as two young girls abandoned in a forest cabin, fostered by an unknown entity that they fondly call "Mama" (Javier Botet), which eventually follows them to their new suburban home led by two adults (Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) after their uncle retrieves them. It was produced by J. Miles Dale and co-writer Barbara Muschietti, with Guillermo del Toro serving as executive producer. Originally set for an October 2012 release, it was released in theaters on 18 January 2013.[7]


Distraught after losing his fortune in the 2008 financial crisis, stockbroker Jeffrey Desange kills all of his business partners, his employees, and estranged wife before taking his children, three-year-old Victoria and one-year-old Lilly, away from home. Driving dangerously fast on a snowy road, Jeffrey loses control and the car slides down the mountain, ramming into the woods and breaking Victoria's glasses. Surviving, he takes the children into an abandoned cabin. Planning to kill his daughters and commit suicide, he holds a gun to Victoria's head, but a shadowy figure turns the tables by killing him. The girls, huddled by the fireside, are tossed a cherry by the mysterious figure.

Five years later, a rescue party, sponsored by Jeffrey's identical twin brother Lucas, finds Victoria and Lilly alive and well, but in a feral state after years of isolation. The girls are put in a welfare clinic under the psychiatric care of Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss. They make reference to "Mama", a maternal protector figure. The girls are initially hostile to Lucas but Victoria recognizes him after he gives her a pair of glasses and she can see him properly. Dreyfuss agrees to support Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel's custody claim against the girls' maternal great-aunt, Jean Podolski, as long as Dreyfuss is allowed to monitor the progress of the girls. Victoria acclimates quickly to domestic life while Lilly retains much of her feralness (language regression, growling, lying on the floor), not being used to being around people.

While in bed with Lucas, Annabel is startled by the appearance of a monstrous figure. Lucas is attacked by "Mama" and is put into a coma. Annabel, who is uncomfortable being around the girls, finds herself left alone to care for them. Although Annabel makes progress with Victoria, she finds Lilly hostile. Alarmed by nightmares of a strange woman and Victoria's warning about Mama's jealousy, Annabel asks Dreyfuss to investigate. He initially thought "Mama" to be an imaginary alter-ego of Victoria; however, his research corroborates Victoria's story that Mama is an aggrieved mother and brings to light the story of Edith Brennan, a mental asylum patient in the 1800s.

Dreyfuss recovers a box from a government warehouse containing a baby's remains. Annabel has a nightmare revealing Mama's past: when Edith Brennan ("Mama") was sent to St. Gertrude's Asylum for an unknown reason, her child was taken from her and given to nuns. She escaped the asylum, stabbed a nun and took her baby back. Fleeing her pursuers, Edith jumped off a cliff but before hitting the water below, she and the child made impact with a large branch. Edith drowned but the child's body snagged on the branch and did not fall with her into the water. Annabel realizes that Mama still hasn't realized her child died from hitting the tree and didn't understand why her baby wasn't in the water with her; in her distress, Mama unsuccessfully searched the woods for her child for more than a century until she discovered Victoria and Lilly, taking them on as substitutes.

Lucas regains consciousness after a vision of his dead brother, Jeffrey, tells him to save his daughters. Victoria's growing closeness to Annabel makes her less willing to play with Mama, unlike Lilly. Dreyfuss visits the cabin and is killed by Mama, with Annabel taking some of the objects relating to Mama, including the body of her baby. Annabel and the girls are attacked by a jealous Mama, who kills Jean, who has been watching the house, and uses her body to spirit the children away in Jean's car. Annabel and Lucas find the children on the same cliff where Brennan leaped with her child to their deaths over a century earlier. Mama is preparing to re-enact her fall with Victoria and Lilly.

When Annabel offers Mama the remains of her child, Mama's appearance changes, becoming more human, and she starts sobbing at the baby's death. However, when Lilly (remembering only Mama as her original parent, since she was abandoned in the woods for most of her life) calls out for her, Mama reverts to her monstrous form and takes the girls again, nearly killing Annabel and Lucas, but refraining mainly because Victoria cares about them and does not want them hurt. Annabel clings to Victoria, who asks to stay with Annabel instead of leaving with Mama, which Mama accepts. After a tearful farewell, Mama and Lilly fall off the cliff, turning into a shower of moths when they hit the branch. Mama and Lilly are shown as spirits happy to be united while embracing and smiling. Annabel and Lucas embrace Victoria, and Victoria notices a bright blue moth landing on her hand, indicating that Lilly is still with her in some form.



The film began production in Pinewood Toronto Studios on 3 October 2011. Production ended on 18 December 2011. Parts of the film were also shot in Quebec City, Quebec. Although the film was produced in Canada, it is set in Clifton Forge, Virginia. The film was initially scheduled for release in October 2012, but was later rescheduled for January[8] to avoid competing with Paranormal Activity 4. Its success at that later date has, among with other dump months horror films, convinced studios to start opening horror movies year-round.[9]


Critical reception[edit]

Mama received generally positive reviews from critics; it currently holds a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 154 reviews. The site's consensus states: "If you're into old school scares over cheap gore, you'll be able to get over Mama's confusing script and contrived plot devices."[10]

Richard Roeper, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, enjoyed the film, giving it three stars out of four and saying, "Movies like Mama are thrill rides. We go to be scared and then laugh, scared and then laugh, scared and then shocked. Of course, there's almost always a little plot left over for a sequel. It's a ride I'd take again."[11] Owen Gleiberman, reviewing for Entertainment Weekly, gave the movie a B and said, "Mama lifts almost every one of its fear-factor visuals from earlier films: the rotting black passageways that spread like mold over the walls (very Ringu meets Repulsion)the fire in her eyes; the crouched figures that skitter and pounce à la the infamous 'spider' outtake from the original Exorcist; the way that Mama, with her arms like smoky-shadowy bent tendrils, evokes both the monster from the Alien films and also, in a funny way, the crumpled-puppet gothic mischievousness of Tim Burton animation. Nothing in the movie is quite original, yet Muschietti, expanding his original short,[12] knows how to stage a rip-off with frightening verve. It helps to have an actress on hand as soulful as Jessica Chastain..."[13]

IGN editor Scott Corulla rated the film 7.3 out of 10 and wrote, "This is a fine first film for director Andrés Muschietti and, despite some missteps and disappointments, very well could be a harbinger of interesting things to come for the helmer."[14] The Huffington Post wrote, "With Del Toro's name up front, expect Mama to be the winter horror film of choice in 2013."[15] The Philadelphia Inquirer called the film an "effectively spooky ghost story", adding, "Mama is full of arty tropes – sepia-toned flashbacks, flickering lights, menacing murmurings. The atmosphere is positively spectral. And it's easy to see why del Toro is a champion: Like his Pan's Labyrinth, there's a fairy-tale aspect (the film even begins with the title card "Once upon a time..."), with children in jeopardy, a witchy monster, and edge-of-the-precipice confrontations."[16] Canyon News wrote, "The scares do indeed come a mile a minute and will unnerve even some of the toughest moviegoers."[17] Mick LaSalle of the Houston Chronicle wrote, "Director Andres Muschietti is cinematically literate – in one example he borrows a flashbulb effect from Hitchcock's Rear Window – and he has visual panache. Much of the movie is surprisingly beautiful."[18]

Box office[edit]

The film earned $28,402,310 on its opening weekend, debuting at #1 and playing at 2,647 theaters.[19] As of 4 April 2013, it grossed $146,428,180 worldwide and is a commercial success.[3][20] Additionally, Jessica Chastain, for the second time in her career, claimed the top two spots of the box-office with her starring roles in Mama and Zero Dark Thirty'".[21]


Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Saturn Awards Best Horror Film Mama Nominated [22]
Young Artist Award Best Leading Young Actress in a Feature Film Megan Charpentier Nominated [23]
Best Supporting Young Actress in a Feature Film Morgan McGarry Nominated
Best Supporting Young Actress in a Feature Film Isabelle Nelisse Nominated
MTV Movie Award Best Scared-As-Shit Performance Jessica Chastain Nominated [24]
People's Choice Awards Favorite Horror Movie Mama Nominated [25]
Golden Trailer Awards Best Horror Mama Won [26]
Best Motion/Title Graphics Universal Pictures Nominated [27]
Best Horror Poster Universal Pictures Nominated


In February 2013, it was reported that a sequel was in works.[28] In January 2016, Universal announced that duo Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch would rewrite and direct the sequel.[29] Chastain would not return for the sequel.[30]


  1. ^ "MAMA (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 29 November 2012. Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Fritz, Ben (17 January 2013). "Horror movie 'Mama' to top new Schwarzenegger, Wahlberg films". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ a b c "Mama (2013)". Box Office Mojo. 
  4. ^ Chang, Justin (15 January 2013). "Mama". Variety. 
  5. ^ Rolfe, Pamela (17 April 2013). "Bittersweet Results for Spanish Box Office in First Quarter". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (5 May 2013). "Studios Translate Local Language Movies Into Lucrative Global Business". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Trumbore, Dave (10 August 2012). "Universal Shuffles OBLIVION, Ron Howard's RUSH and the Guillermo del Toro-Produced Horror Film, MAMA; THE PERKS OF BEING A WALL FLOWER Pushed Back". Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  9. ^ Alexander, Bryan (1 October 2013). "Who killed the Halloween horror movies?". USA Today. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  10. ^ Mama at Rotten Tomatoes
  11. ^ Roeper, Richard (16 January 2013). "Mama". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago: Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (25 January – 1 February 2013). "Mama". Entertainment Weekly. New York: Time Inc.: 98. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "'Mama' Trailer: Jessica Chastain Stars In Year's Scariest Film? (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 
  16. ^ Rea, Steven (18 January 2013). "Mama: Every Adoptive Parent's Nightmare". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Media Network. 
  17. ^ Anderson, LaDale (17 January 2013). "Mama Is Spine-Tingling Scary". Canyon News. Beverly Hills, California: Glen Kelly. 
  18. ^ LaSalle, Mick (18 January 2013). "HORROR – Mama is Disturbingly Entertaining". Houston Chronicle. Houston, Texas: Jack Sweeney. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  19. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for January 18–20, 2013". Box Office Mojo. 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2013-04-28. 
  20. ^ Boardman, Madeline (20 January 2013). "Weekend Box Office: 'Mama' Takes The Number One Spot". Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 
  21. ^ Corliss, Richard (21 January 2013). "The Chastain Perfecta: Mama and Zero Score While Arnold Stands Down". TIME (magazine). Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  22. ^ "'Gravity,' 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' Lead Saturn Awards Noms". 
  23. ^ "35th Annual Young Artist Awards". Young Artist Awards. Archived from the original on 20 July 2015. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  24. ^ "2013 MTV Movie Awards". MTV (MTV Networks). Retrieved August 25, 2016.  Note: Click on the 'Winners' tab.
  25. ^ People’s Choice Awards 2014: The winners list
  26. ^ "Golden Trailer Awards 2013". Retrieved August 28, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Golden Trailer 2013". Retrieved August 28, 2016. 
  28. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (February 20, 2013). "Universal to build on Mama success with more co-pros". Retrieved January 29, 2016. 
  29. ^ Kit, Borys (January 28, 2016). "'Mama' Sequel in the Works from 'Starry Eyes' Filmmakers (Exclusive)". Retrieved January 29, 2016. 
  30. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 28, 2016). "Jessica Chastain Not Expected to Return for 'Mama 2' as Sequel Takes Shape". Retrieved January 29, 2016. 

External links[edit]