How many times have you been fully immersed in a sci-fi or horror film only to have the illusion decimated by a weak CG alien or ghost reveal? The technology may be improving, but it’s still disappointingly easy to pinpoint digitally rendered elements in live action environments and, in the case of Mama, that fact arguably sucked a good deal of the terror out of a deliciously creepy horror movie experience.
Per Guillermo del Toro’s tendency to highlight the whimsical, Victoria and Lilly’s lost-in-the-woods caretaker, Mama, takes on a fantastical quality. While the bleeding black walls and abundance of moths make for some eerie imagery, the unveiling of Mama herself can detach you from the impressively grounded environment by giving the villain a sadly cartoonish tinge. Making the misstep even more disappointing is that director Andrés Muschietti had a winning design well before applying the digital effects.
Javier Botet is Mama. At just five-years-old, Botet was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a disorder that causes the affected to become unusually tall with long, thin arms, legs and fingers. While the condition does come with risks (in Botet’s case difficulty breathing – he still embraces his situation, using his physicality and contorting abilities to create striking characters like Medeiros in the REC movies and now, Mama.
The quality of this video and the spooky background tune do help to set the mood, but Botet’s work in this motion test via io9 is spot on. In this raw form, the character has a far more human appeal, and what’s more frightening than a ghost or creature that feels real? Had the Mama team opted to ditch the fancy floating and more refined look, the grittiness of Botet’s Mama would have made – in this writer’s opinion – for an exponentially more nightmarish end result.
Mama is now in theaters. Be sure to read our review.
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