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Film: Mama

Mama is a 2013 horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro, and based on a Youtube short film by Andres Muschietti, who also directed it and helped produce and write it.

When little Victoria and Lily's father Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) kills his business partner and his estranged wife, he flees with his daughters to parts unknown. They end up lost in the woods and find themselves in an abandoned cabin, where Jeffrey, at the end of his rope, attempts to do to the girls as he did to their mother. However, he's whisked away and killed by a blurry figure, and the three year-old Victoria and her one year-old sister are left to fend for themselves in the wilderness.

It's five years later, and their uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster Waldau, again) has spent himself into bankruptcy trying to find any trace of his missing family, with only his girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain) —the bassist in a small-time rock band— for support. When a search party finds them somehow alive, regressed to a near-feral state, he fights tooth and nail to bring them home so they can begin the healing process. But after getting custody of them, it soon becomes clear that there was something taking care of them in the woods... and it won't let them go so easily.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: Mama/Edith. Justified due being a ghost, and one that died from a long fall.
  • Adaptation Expansion: A 100 minute movie based on a three minute Youtube video, and it works. Helps that they had the same director.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Annabel pre-Character Development.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Averted big time. In fact, Lucas shows more concern to her nieces than grief for what happened to Jeffrey.
  • Animal Motifs: Moths.
  • Antagonist Title: The titular character is the Big Bad.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: One implied fate of Mama/Edith and Lily.
  • Asshole Victim: Mama kills Jeffery just as he was about to commit murder-suicide on his daughters, and well after he had already killed his partners and wife.
    • Jean, who had been trying to take custody of the kids since the very beginning, was probably intended to be this.
  • Big Damn Villains: When Jeffrey is about to shoot Victoria in the back of the head, Edith/Mama appears right at the last possible second and stops him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Although Victoria comes to love Annabel and leaves Edith for her, Edith refuses to let go of Lily and the latter is likewise too attached to her to trade her for Annabel, and happily goes with whom she considers her real mother. For her part, Lily's unconditional love releases Edith from her grief and allows her to move on. But one way or another, Lily's dead.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Victoria's vision is very poor without glasses: at the beginning of the movie she isn't even able to recognize her father being murdered because Mama's figure is so blurry.
    • Victoria's first step toward recovering from her feral state happens when she receives a new pair. Edith later destroys them in a fit of jealousy, as to her they represent the moment she started to lose her precious daughter.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: At the denouement, the moths make way for bright, colorful butterflies.
  • Call Back: At one point in the film, Annabel grabs the belt of Victoria's bathrobe and asks what's wrong, and Victoria pulls away from her. At the climax of the film Annabel, having been physically drained to the point that she can't even walk, grabs hold of the same belt of Victoria's robe so she won't go with Mama/Edith. This time, Victoria stays.
  • Character Development: Anna starts off distant, with barely any affection for the girls themselves, and only takes care of them for Lucas' sake. As she earns their trust, and they come around to her in turn, she starts to love them and care for them like a real parent.
    • "Mad Edith Brennan" aka Mama goes from being a psychotically jealous, obsessive ghost with barely more personality than an animal to being able to let Victoria go when the latter chooses to stay with Annabel. Yes, even the ghost has character development.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Dr. Dreyfus points out that Victoria's age when she was lost will make it easier for her to recover. At the end, she's the one that's able to resist Edith's influence.
  • Children Are Innocent: Too innocent. Victoria seems to know that there's something supernatural about Edith, but she's never learned that this is something she should be afraid of, so she isn't. In Lily's case, she's unable to see Edith as anything other than her real mother, and prefers her to any kind of human contact.
  • Color Motif: Purple: Lily wears a purple blanket when they arrive at the house at the beginning of the movie. Most of the children's drawings also depict her in purple. The baby that Mama/Edith is carrying when she jumps from the cliff is wrapped in a purple blanket as well.
  • Convenient Coma: Mama's/Edith's assault puts Lucas in a coma, forcing Annabel to take care of the girls on her own.
  • Cool Uncle: Lucas deeply cares for Victoria and Lily. Jean may also count as a Cool Aunt if she wasn't so incredibly stern. She and Lucas are fighting for the children's custody.
  • Creepy Child / Wild Child: Both of the kids start out this way. Victoria gets better, Lily doesn't.
    • Makes more tragic sense in Lily's case when you remember that all she can likely remember up until she's found is living in that cabin with her sister and Mama and no other contact, no wonder she has more trouble letting go, poor thing.
  • Creepy Doll: The one that the girls kept at the cabin. Whether they made it themselves, or Mama/Edith made it for them, is left up to the viewer.
  • Creepy Long Fingers: Mama, so very much.
  • Daylight Horror: Many of Mama's appearances happen in broad daylight.
  • Deadly Hug: Crushing people in her arms in Mama's preferred killing method.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Lucas gets taken out of the action pretty early, if you're wondering why Annabel's actress has top billing. Even when he wakes up and attempts to get back into the action, he's taken out again for the climax.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Averted. Dr. Dreyfus ensures that Lucas is able to take custody of the girls, despite his financial situation. Jean tries to get child services involved when she suspects abuse is taking place, but Mama kills her before she gets the chance to do that.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Jeffrey realizing the magnitude of what he's done (to his wife,) what he's about to do (to his daughters,) and his own inability to stop himself from doing it.
    • Victoria losing her younger sister to Edith.
  • Determinator: Annabel at the end.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Subverted. The dog never seems to recognize that Mama/Edith is there.
    • The dog definitely noticed the ghost's appearance/presence; he just didn't seem to see it as evil.
  • Flight, Strength, Heart: Mama's powers include flying, mangling people with her arms and creating cherries.
  • Funny Background Event: There are times when Annabel goes around the house doing chores, and the girls are seen playing with Mama/Edith and thoroughly enjoying themselves.
  • Ghostly Goals: Mama/Edith wants nothing more than to care for and protect her children. When she's finally reunited with her dead child, it seems she's at peace... until Lily calls for her and she decides she still needs to protect her "daughters."
    • Take another look at Mama'/Edith's face in that scene. When she's finally reunited with the bones of her baby, she falls to her knees and sobs. She wasn't at peace; she was crushed at having ultimately failed to protect her baby, which was all she wanted to do in the first place. Lily's call for her made her realize there were two more children she could still " save ".
  • Go Out with a Smile: Lily.
  • Grand Theft Me: What Edith does to Jean in order to take the kids back to the cabin. It proved fatal when Edith left.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Mama/Edith isn't just protective of her children, she's also viciously jealous and does not want anyone intruding in her little family's happiness.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Played with. When Annabel wears them to listen to the interview recordings, it would seem that either she'd get attacked or she'd be oblivious to the girls' plight when Edith comes for them. But she hears their screams well enough to come running for them when needed.
  • History Repeats: Edith's child was taken from her. When she came to take it back, she was hounded and chased back to a cliff, where she leapt or fell with her child to their deaths. Now her children are being taken away from her again...
    • Edith jumped from the cliff in an attempt to escape into the river below. She and her baby struck a branch jutting out about halfway down, killing the baby and rendering Edith too injured to swim, leading to her drowning. Fast forward to the climax: Mama/Edith has taken Lily and again drops with her towards the river. They hit the exact same branch and explode into moths and butterflies.
  • Hope Spot: After being given the remains of her dead child, Edith briefly appears appeased, taking the form of her normal human self. When Lily begins to cry for her, she loses all interest in (the skeletal remains of) her own child and turns back into a hideous revenant.
  • Hulk Speak: Lily rarely speaks but when she does it's like this.
  • Idiot Ball: After Dr. Dreyfuss discovers real evidence of a Mama/ Edith, the first thing he does is go to the cabin in the woods, alone, at night, to take pictures of her.
    • Made even better when one remembers he does this right after upsetting Victoria so much that she appears to actively call on Mama, if the girl's Kubrick Stare and the splotch that appears on the wall where she's looking are any indicator. Not only is the doctor trespassing in Mama's home, he's doing it after having made her angry!
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight with Victoria but averted with Lilly, who moves on to the next life with Edith. Also averted with Edith's child.
  • Jump Scare: Often.
  • Karma Houdini: Edith ends up living in eternal bliss with her new daughter, just like she always wanted.
  • Kill 'em All: There's approximately seven named characters in the entire movie. Three live. Lucas, Annabel, Victoria live. Jeffrey, Lilly, Dr. Dreyfuss, Aunt Jean, (and Mama/Edith) either die or "die."
  • Knight Templar Parent: But of course.
  • Love Redeems: Lily's love ends Edith's haunting.
  • Macabre Moth Motif: Moths follow Mama wherever she goes.
  • Mama Bear: This is basically Mama Bear: The Movie.
    • Mama/Edith is fiercely devoted and protective of her children, and will kill and assault anyone that gets between them and her; those who even threaten to do them harm meet the most grisly ends possible. Even when she's bound by her word not to kill Annabel, she still shields the girls with her own body against the perceived threat. Though sometimes it looks a lot like chasing/attacking "her" children.
      • Mama/Edith also subverts Mama Bear, when she accidentally kills her baby, and then kills Lilly.
    • Annabel, once she comes to care for the girls on her own terms, likewise becomes an opponent to be reckoned with, clinging to them even after Edith nearly mauls her to death.
  • Marionette Motion: Mama's movement is erratic and unnatural. So is Lily's, for that matter.
  • Meaningful Name: It's easy to miss, but Lily has the same name as Edith's dead baby, and ends up sharing her fate.
    • The name Lily itself also has special connotations: lilies are associated with death and the restoration of innocence upon death.
    • The name Brennan can mean "burning". Edith was insane before she died, spent a hellish period of time as a ghost after failing to safely escape with her baby, and is ultimately confronted with the fact that her actions led to the baby's death during the climax. The look on her face when she cradles those tiny bones says it all...
  • The Mentally Disturbed: Edith, before her death.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Annabel has very few scenes where she's not showing cleavage.
    • Annabel also walks around her house barefoot quite a bit.
  • Mythology Gag: The original Jump Scare of the short film is included, up to and including one of the sisters shutting the door on the other while they flee. The outcome of this scene is different, though.
  • No Peripheral Vision: Annabel occasionally can't see anything not directly in front of her.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Initially Dreyfuss believes that "Mama" was just an Imaginary Friend that Victoria and Lily created to cope with their situation. It turns out that she's not quite so imaginary...
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: A typical example, but the kids paint the walls with pictures of themselves as they grow up, showcasing Mama's/Edith's constant (and violently protective) presence.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: A variant. Lucas is the (implied) twin brother of the girls' father while Jean is their mother's sister. The two are at each others' throat for the two kids' custody.
  • Official Couple: Lucas and Annabel.
  • One to Million to One: When Mama hits the same tree branch that killed her at the end of the movie, she splits into hundreds of moths.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Mama/Edith takes most of her design from the Mexican Urban Legends of La Llorona note  with a helping of Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl (though too different from the traditional onryo to be considered one.)
  • Parental Substitute: Lucas and Jean are at each others' throat for Victoria and Lily's custody.
  • Pater Familicide: Initiated in the beginning by Jeffrey when he kills the girls' mother (offscreen,) but when he attempts to finish the job, Edith cuts him short.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Edith playing with the girls at their new house, even pulling Lily high up into the air while the latter laughs her heart out, shows that she's not just there to protect them, but that she and the girls really do enjoy each other's presence.
    • When Annabel brings in Lily from the cold, and warms her hands with her own breath, Lily stops hating her and opens up enough to like her, because Edith, despite all her love, can never give her warmth.
    • Edith sparing Annabel's life because she promised Victoria she wouldn't hurt Annabel.
    • Despite murdering his business partners, his wife, and attempting to do the same to his daughters, Jeff's ghost wakes his brother up to urge him to save the girls.
  • Product Placement: "I need the number for Enterprise Rent-A-Car."
    • Annabel drinks Heineken beer in one scene, with the bottle practically right up to the camera lens.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Mama/Edith conveys her presence and shares her tale of woe via these; Victoria and Annabel thus learn her blood-soaked origins and come to sympathize with her. Lucas, for his part, is pulled out of his Convenient Coma by a dream of the ghost of his dead brother, who begs him to save his daughters.
  • Rule of Symbolism: There are several references to Edith's real baby, hanging from a tree branch in its sling, which liken it to a moth's cocoon. At the end of the film, Edith enshrouds herself and Lily in a cocoon-like shape, which crashes into the same branch, and bursts into thousands of butterflies.
  • Shown Their Work: The effects the five years of isolation had on the children, particularly Lilly, is this. Lilly refusing to wear shoes, refusing to sleep on the bed, refusing to sit at the table, crawling around on all fours and the way she was half-bent forward (as though she wanted to crawl) and clinging to her sister all show ways in which feral children have been shown to act. In the pictures shown during the opening credits, Victoria is drawn standing, but eventually she is shown to have dropped to all fours (like her sister, who never walked on two feet).
  • Sickening Crunch: Mama's kills are often accompanied by these.
  • Spanner in the Works: Lily, if you could have just kept your mouth shut we could have had a happy ending.
  • Time Skip: The actual story begins five years after the prologue.
  • Together in Death: Edith and Lily.
  • Tragic Monster: Mama's backstory is not pretty...
  • The Voiceless: Even in flashbacks to when she was human Mama never speaks, just grunts and groans. She says one word in the entire movie, and it's near the very end. It's "Lily". She's actually got a rather lovely voice. Pity she only spoke once...
  • Worthy Opponent: Near the end, Mama/Edith seems to start regarding Annabel this way.
  • Yandere: Mama/Edith is a parental version rather than the usual romantic one.
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