I was only a baby when ABC debuted the original “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” in 1973, but I caught it when it was rebroadcast around the end of the decade, when I was … six or seven years old? And dear GOD did it scare the crap out of me.
Since then, it’s become a minor legend in the horror fan community as one of the rare made-for-television movies that is easily as scary as something you’d see in a theater. This was the film that was remade in 2010, produced by Guillermo del Toro and with Katie Holmes in the lead role. (And I thought that the remake was a fun horror fantasy, even if it wasn’t terribly scary.)
I actually caught the film again about ten years ago, courtesy of Netflix’ DVD-by-mail service. And it was still creepy enough.
“Mama” (2013) was quite good; I’d give it an 8 out of 10. Jessica Chastain does a great job with a well written character arc — initially unlikable, but then a surprising heroine. And it’s great that she got top billing, instead of the film’s obligatory telegenic male protagonist, who actually spends a lot of time off-screen.
Guillermo del Toro actually didn’t direct this, as I thought — he was the executive producer. The director and screenwriter was Andrés Muschietti. But I swear this has the feel of del Toro’s work. It could stand as a thematic sequel to the wonderful “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” remake, for example, which also had strong elements of childhood fantasy and motherhood as a theme.
And what a great and beautifully creepy use of CGI to render the title baddie. In fact, the whole movie was visually terrific, with a fairy-tale-ish use of movement and color that was cool, creative and different. There are really clever flourishes for fright-flick fans — I personally really liked the tug-of-war scene.
I occasionally noticed some plot-convenient mysteries … one character is assaulted but survives? And “Mama” can move with either lightning speed or plodding slowness, depending on what the story calls for. And … at one point … do we actually have a zombie? Do we need to call on Rick Grimes and his band of survivors from “The Walking Dead?”