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    Mama Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Universal

    May 23 2013 11:39 PM | Kevin EK in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Mama is remembered on Blu-ray in an edition that presents this horror movie fantasy in the best light possible. It’s not a great movie, or even a particularly good one, but there’s no denying the strength and creepiness of atmosphere brought to the table by creators Andy and Barbara Muschietti. The Blu-ray provides not only a solid visual and audio presentation, but also a fair amount of special features showing how the movie came to be what it is. At the very least, there is an educational opportunity here to see how the best laid plans can come to grief, so to speak.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Universal
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English DVS 2.0, Spanish 5.1 DTS
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    • Rating: PG-13
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 40 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: All
    • Release Date: 05/21/2013
    • MSRP: $34.98

    The Production Rating: 2/5

    “Now I can’t see you Mama

    But I know you’re always there...”

    -Genesis


    Mama is a genuinely creepy movie, loaded with atmosphere and some pretty strong scares for a PG-13 rating. It has a couple of really scary child performances. It has a rich score by Fernando Velasquez. And yet, the movie just doesn’t work. Like the animated movie 9 from a couple of years back, this is an example of a concept that works well as a short film but falls apart when stretched out to the length of a feature film. The short version of the story is that the movie shows what happens when two little girls are rescued after having spent five years in the forest in the care of Something which accompanies them back to civilization. On the surface, there is a lot of creepy atmosphere, particularly from the performances of the two girls (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse) who range from a generally frightening type of animal movement to a more recognizably human emotional quality. There is a level of assuredness with the camera movement as the image moves inexorably and menacingly toward and around the characters. But somewhere along the line, the movie simply runs out of interesting places to go with the creepiness. Inevitably, the whole enterprise falls back on the idea of having characters slowly walk into dark houses and rooms at the most foolish of times. Jessica Chastain and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau do the best they can as the couple trying to cope with the two demonic girls and the spirit they call “Mama”, but it becomes clear after a while that these two actors are nearly as confused as the audience as to what story is being told here. The movie begins as a strange fairy tale, then morphs into a light horror movie for much of its length before finally segueing back into fantasy for its final moments. The title character is alternatively presented as something horrific or sympathetic, even from the first moment we encounter it. And the tone of the movie repeatedly shifts from a realistic horror movie to something more fantastical. In the end, the whole exercise is undone by the sheer weight of the strangeness of it all.

    Mama has been released simultaneously on Blu-ray and standard definition, as of May 7th. The Blu-ray has everything from the standard DVD, and adds high definition picture and sound along with an additional featurette not found on the DVD. The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD release on a second disc within the plastic case.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    Mama is presented in a 1080p AVC 1.85:1 transfer at an average 34mbps that provides a solid picture with deep blacks and rich detail. The color palette here is understandably darker, given the subject matter, and the high definition transfer brings out not only the various shades of gray and black, but also the muted colors that play across the palette of this movie.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    Mama is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (averaging 3.7 mbps but climbing to 5.2 mbps in some scenes) that mostly plays in a quiet mode with the music building the intensity in the surrounds, and with the usual cattle prod hits coming from the subwoofer and the score. But there is also a fine sense of directionality at times and of non-directional atmosphere as the various noises of “Mama” are heard throughout the sound field. This mix gets points for inventiveness – not for the expected cattle prods, but for the other bits of atmosphere we get along the way. A Spanish DTS 5.1 mix is also included on the disc, as is an English DVS track.

    Special Features: 3/5

    The Blu-ray presentation of Mama comes with a fair amount of special features, including a commentary, the original short film, some deleted scenes, two featurettes and BD-Live access to various previews. The packaging also includes the DVD release. A digital copy is available online via pocket BLU or via a code included in the packaging.

    Commentary with Andy and Barbara Muschietti (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This scene-specific commentary by the director and producer of the movie, who also co-wrote it, goes through a fair amount of material. Their thoroughness is remarkable, given that English is not their first language. They discuss the original short film and point out the moment in the feature when they restage that short. (They mention that they were not going to do this until Guillermo del Toro insisted on it.) They openly refer to the movie’s many tonal shifts, although they seem not to see how confusing the experience winds up being for the audience.

    Original Short Film with Introduction by Guillermo del Toro (1080p, 4:32) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Here we have the original short that inspired Guillermo del Toro to get the Muschiettis to expand the concept to a feature film. It’s a quick but brutal piece, showing the same assurance of staging and camera work that would be seen to a larger scale in the full movie. But it’s a pretty fast buildup to a quick punchline. It efficiently establishes the same creepy atmosphere seen in the movie, gives us a brief look at the visual effects that would fill the movie, and then offers a final scare to top it off. The short itself only runs about 2 minutes. Del Toro introduces the short, taking nearly as long as the short to make his comments. The short can be watched with or without commentary by the Muschiettis.

    Deleted Scenes (1080p, 7:31 Total) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Six deleted scenes from the movie are incuded here. Pretty much all of them just provide additional character shadings. One offers a hint about the motives of the primary doctor character. As usual with deleted material, this is all superfluous stuff that was wisely removed from the movie. The scenes can be viewed with or without commentary by the Muschiettis, and can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” option.

    The Birth of Mama (9:38, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This featurette covers the basics of the making of the movie, including the usual combination of mutual compliments from the cast and producers with on-set footage and clips from the film.

    Matriarchal Secrets: The Visual Effects of Mama (6:00, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette, which is only found on the Blu-ray, covers the effects work done to create the ghost title creature. Some truly strange on-set footage is shown of the cast working with contortionist Javier Botet, followed by even stranger footage of the group reviewing the playback of their work.

    My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.

    BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online. A “Previews” menu option simply accesses the various previews that are available via BD-Live.

    pocket BLU – This Blu-ray includes the usual pocket BLU functionality, enabling viewers with appropriate laptop, iPad or smart phone integration to remotely control their Blu-ray player and access some of the bonus content from the separate device.

    DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the movie. It contains the movie presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 1.85:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English and Spanish (448 kbps) as well as the English DVS track. The commentary, original short film, deleted scenes and one featurette are included, in standard definition.

    Digital Copy – Instructions are included in the packaging for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie for your your laptop or portable device.

    Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.

    Overall Rating: 2/5

    Given the genuine creepiness of the movie and the talent shown by its creators, it’s really a shame that Mama wasn’t any better of a movie. Once again, we see a situation where a short film works better as a quick story than as a full-length feature film. That said, fans of the concept, or of Guillermo del Toro’s sensibilities, may want to rent this just to see the visual designs in play.

    Reviewed by: Kevin EK
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