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2012/10/14

Mamá

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Honestly, there are some times that you DON'T want your mommy...
For me, horror films are sort of like a car accident on the side of the road.  I know that it's better to just pass them by; no slowing down to gawk and try to satiate my curiosity, unless (in the case of the aforementioned horror movies) I want to end the evening on high alert while trying to fall asleep: “What the {bleep}was that noise? Did that freakin’ shadow in the corner just move?!”  Oddly enough, there have been a few times when I was happy that my fascination overrode the risk of bedtime paranoia; I saw some extremely good pieces of work--even if, later that night,  I could’ve sworn that my coffee cup was in a different place than where I’d last left it.

With a run time of slightly over three minutes, Andres (Andy) Muschietti’s 2008 short film Mamá is one of those risks gone right.  It grabbed me right out of the gate, kept me riveted, and preyed on my not-so-long dormant childhood fears.  For me, it’s this piece of work’s simplicity that makes it truly stand out.  It does this with some of the earmarks of thoughtful filmmaking: good use of lighting, music selections that enhance but don‘t interfere with the mood, and subtle sound effects that help to up the ante.  (It was also, impressively enough, reported to be created from just two camera shots.)  It doesn’t have to rely on many special effects or the shock value of blood and gore to frighten us.  It just gives our imaginations free reign to scare the crap out of us on their own.

            

And it’s that subtle, psychological tension of the short that makes it so damn creepy.  Like some of the best thriller/suspense movies of the past, it uses a cat and mouse technique to toy with us, slowly building on the trepidation we're feeling, and allowing us to come up with our own sinister possibilities.  We don’t really know what’s happened to title character Mamá; is she back from the dead? Worse, is she back from the dead but perhaps possessed by some kind of evil? Or, has some horrible event caused people to mutate? The suspense of not knowing just what she is (though obviously no longer a “normal” human being) ups the uneasiness the viewer is feeling.

There were a few things that I especially liked about the film, and that I felt made it really stand out: the first seconds of Lili scurrying backwards into the room in the opening scene immediately set the tone and mood for me; it put me on edge right away, suspicious of who (or really, what) she was and what her intentions might be.  The relative darkness of the whole film added fantastic tension too; you never knew what might be lurking in the shadows.

I also like that the little girls in the film act like little girls, not some heroic mini adults; they do incredibly kid-like things.  Even while her sister is urging her to hurry, Victoria wastes precious seconds to go back to grab her fish bowl on the way out of her room.  Later, in a moment of sheer terror and panic, Lili acts first and thinks later, with definite consequences to follow.

Promo for the 2013 full-length film
I’m not always a fan of film adaptations, but in January of 2013, a full-length feature will be released, based on this short.  Guillermo del Toro, director of Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and many others, will be producer, with Muschietti as director.  Hopefully, in those capable hands, the full-length film won’t do anything to detract from the original short.  I wouldn’t usually say this, but in this case, I’m sort of looking forward to being scared out of my wits.  I’ll just have to put aside some extra money for the electric bill; I’m sure I’ll need to leave a light on for a few nights.

(Fun trivia: Mamá was filmed in Barcelona, but the house used for the set was slated for demolition in a couple of weeks.  The filmmakers were enamored with it, so they organized the cast and crew and shot the film as quickly as possible, before demolition could take place.)

To find out more about the short, check out its IMDb page here: www.imdb.com/title/tt1315885

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