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September 1, 2013

Movie Review: Mara (2012)

Oh you big bouncy blonde beautiful Swedes. You try so hard, don't you? But where Let the Right One In succeeds, Mara fails.

Mara starts off with Jenny sitting in the police station, covered in blood, while she tells her story to the cops. About 90% of the film is in flashback so here it is: five young people are at a home out in the middle of nowhere partying hearty (red flag #1). Jenny, her cousin, Cissi, and Cissi's former schoolmates Jacob, Stina, and Phillip. It's also the home where Jenny's mother murdered Jenny's father 10 years earlier (red flag #2). So why would Jenny ever agree to go back there? Though Cissi's mom owns the house now, Jenny can legally inherit (since it belonged to her parents first) so she needs to revisit the place or some inane reason that really doesn't matter here anyway.

Cissi wants to set Jenny up with Jacob though it's pretty obvious he's more into the resident slut, Stina. Jenny didn't seem all that interested in him either except when he shows attention to Stina. Then she looks like she wants to take a baseball bat to his ass (red flag #3). Well, we can't always get what we want and so everyone turns in for the night.

When Jenny awakes the next morning, everyone is gone. Her cell phone has no signal; the land line is out; the car won't start; she tries to walk to the neighbors but just ends up back at her house. And to top it all off, she keeps seeing her mother (major red flag #4). As she hides in the home, night falls and the power fails. Noises echo through the house, when the phone isn't ringing with no one on the other end, and Jenny is understandably scared shitless.

She relays all of this to the cop interviewing her and she recognizes that her mother couldn't really be stalking her because she's locked up in the nut house. Except she's not (plot twist #1). Jenny's mother was released 2 years earlier but I guess in Sweden no one needs to notify the remaining family members that the old broad DIDN'T butcher with a kitchen knife.

As Jenny recounts the next morning's events - waking up covered in blood and finding everyone butchered - she realizes that it must have been her mother's doing. The feeling of being followed and watched all the time now makes perfect sense! Insert plot twist #2 here which I can't tell you but you take my word for it that it's stupid.

You're probably wondering why the movie is called Mara when there are no characters named that. In Norse mythology, there is a female spirit, Mara, that haunts the living and makes your bad dreams comes true. Hence the word nightmare. Jenny tells us, in the beginning voice over, that she has nightmares every night but now it seems they happen during the day. It's like her life is one giant nightmare she can't escape. It sets up the viewer to believe that Jenny's life is a delusion and everything that happens may or may not be real. A very tired trope that has been done so many times it might as well be a prostitute down on Woodward in Detroit. And while I didn't see the second twist coming, once it was revealed, the movie could have ended right there because everyone could figure out the truth. Even me.

Jenny carries a lot of the movie herself. And while the actress is very pretty (she's a supermodel in Sweden) her acting is marginal. The other four people are really only there as fodder. The mother, though, doesn't really have any lines so the actress portraying her gets to stand around a lot and look batshit crazy. And is quite convincing.

The sound and editing are good and the director really tried to capture the feeling of building tension (in the extras they explain they were going for a 'Psycho' feel) which explains the lack of blood and gore. I was bored to tears but maybe other people might say the movie succeeded. You know, like babies or eight-year old girls or Justin Beiber.

There are much better Swedish horror/thriller movies out there. Don't waste your time with this one.

1 hatchet (out of 5)

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