I was reminded this morning of what a brilliant scary-movie director Andy Muschietti used to be. A little less than six years ago, I mean, when he was directing Mama in Toronto with producer Guillermo del Toro by his side. I’m speaking of a classic Mama bit that belongs in the annals of classic high-craft horror. The film is worth seeing for this alone.
From my January 2013 Mama review (“Battle of the Mommies“): “It involves an older sister stealing her younger sister’s blanket, and then a static hallway shot showing the two of them wrestling for control of the blanket in their bedroom but with only the younger sister visible. And then we see something unexpected. I laughed out loud. I mostly hate the geek realm, but for that moment I was in geek fucking heaven.
“Mama is a light-touch horror pic. A concoction that sneaks in with hints and teasing cuts and, okay, an occasional shock cut or shock-music prompt, but mainly little cinematic games that turn you on if you’re attuned, and if not you’ll just sit there like a popcorn-munching wildebeest and going ‘okay, okay but…c’mon, dude, where’s the really crazy shit? Where are the blood-soaked carpets?”]’
“All I know is that Mama is made for guys like myself. It’s not in the least bit gross or revolting, and it’s seriously, fundamentally scary.
“It’s also one hell of a calling card for first-time-director Muschietti as it feels like it was directed by a middle-aged pro. That’s a nod to Del Toro as he developed Mama, finessed it, worked on every aspect (it was shot in Toronto around the time of principal photography of Pacific Rim), and perhaps held Muschietti’s hand the way Howard Hawks held Christian Nyby‘s during the making of The Thing. It’s just that Mama feels so smooth and commanding and sure of itself.”
That was then, this is now.
“Well, I love Andy and [his sister/producer] Barbara Muschietti,” she told Screenrant‘s Padraig Cotter. “I worked with them on Andy’s directorial debut, Mama. So we’ll see. They’re friends, they’re family. Anything that they’re doing I want to be a part of, so I hope we can make it happen.”
Except IT wasn’t nearly as creepy as Mama. IT actually made it clear, if you ask me, that the Muschietti who’d made Mama, a fellow who seemed to believe in the less-is-more Val Lewton approach, had been replaced by a studio-kowtowing hack.
From my 9.6.17 II review (“Muschietti Kicked Out Of Val Lewton Club”): “Muschietti’s thinking seems to have been ‘if I play it too adult and classy, the fans of Walmart-level horror films will tune out. I have to keep goosing them, over and over…one shock moment every few minutes. If the dumbshits don’t tell their friends that it’s their kind of horror film, IT will go belly-up and I may have a bit of difficulty scoring my next highly-paid gig.”