The creature of its title may be a horrifying cadaverous mother who chases her loved ones emitting bloodcurdling screams, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of Americans rushing into the arms of Mama, the debut feature of Argentinean director Andy Muschietti. The Spanish-Canadian coproduction shot to the top of the box office after it was released in the United States last Friday with 21 million euros in receipts.
“It’s a fantastic result,” says an excited Barbara Muschietti, sister of the director and co-producer and co-writer of the film.
The movie boasts big-name talent behind it in the form of Mexican horror maestro Guillermo del Toro, who acts as executive producer — “It has some of the most horrifying sequences I have ever seen. And it is incredibly well made,” he says — and actress-of-the-moment Jessica Chastain, Oscar-nominated star of Zero Dark Thirty (incidentally, the film Mama beat to the number one spot this week). “Working with her is a prize, a luxury,” says Barbara. “She is a person who dedicates herself in an amazing way. She is a superb performer. And person.”
The basis of the movie is in no way autobiographical, the siblings hasten to add (“our mother is a sweetheart,” says Barbara), but a short movie the pair presented at the Sitges Film Festival in 2008. Shot in one three-minute take, it shows two children trying to flee their house after the arrival of their terrifying mother. “The concept behind the short and, in a certain way, the film, too, is a question: ‘What is the most terrifying and unnatural thing that can happen to you when you are small? That your mother isn’t warm and caring, but cold and hideous, a kind of ghost, a monster of love,” says Muschietti.
The two siblings, who have shared a flat in Barcelona for the last 12 years and make commercials together, say they shot the feature without any on-set arguments. “We might fight over who is going to do the washing up, but we are used to filming together,” Muschietti says.