54 stab wounds into the back of her cheating husband. That’s how Jenny’s mother capped a bout of infidelity-spawned depression.
Jenny was just 10 years old when she witnessed her mother straddled over the aftermath in the kitchen – psychologically scarring her deeply and ending her family. Now, at 20 years of age, she’s looking to get on with a normal life, and put the past behind her. Only problem is, when Jenny returns to the old house for a weekend with friends – the past doesn’t seem to be done with her. Its as if someone is watching from the shadows. Following them…
And the mystery ensues…
Thats what Mara is – a Scandinavian horror mystery with subtitles. It may not be boldly classified as that, but now you know loud and clear. From three directors: Jacob Kondrup, Fredrik Hedberg, and Ake Gustafsson – who together present Swedish Supermodel Angella Jannson (Playboy) as Jenny – as we spend 90 minutes eyeballing her and contemplating the question she asks so often in the film: “What is happening here?”
The film begins in a police station – Jenny’s busty shirt is soaked in someone elses blood. She sits with a detective, recounting her steps, and the story flashes back several times to show what really went down at the cabin, as she digs it up from her slightly repressed memories – the majority of the time accompanying Jenny who is socializing and having an awkward reunion with four cousins and classmates. Several times, she awakens from nightmares, unsure of what is going on, real or imagined, wandering the house, discovering… and showering… until murderous mayhem takes place, and we’re left with a question mark above our heads, awaiting an answer.
Mara’s tedious, standard, run of the mill horror faculties here make it a little long in the tooth heading into the second half, especially when accompanied by slow, quiet stretches, where people don’t speak for several minutes at a time. People go missing, they slowly rise and walk around the house, “Are you there?”, flashlight on, hallways and slow steps, “Hello?”, shadows walking by, the lights go out, the phone rings but no one is there, “Hello…?”, the doors opening and closing on their own. It goes on and on. At least there aren’t a lot of subtitles to read.
Final synopsis: If the story doesn’t grip you, Jannson’s beautiful body might. Although there are (some weak) stabbings and kills, Mara is a slow burn, mellow chiller that you have to be in the right mood to click with. After two false starts, I watched it through – the last time ocularly attached to Jannson, who was like eye candy. The mystery element is interesting, and I liked the film’s resolution. In the end, it delivered what I thought was the simple twist I’d cleverly predicted, and then whipped it out from under me, delivering the coup de grace of summation in its own unique way, which capped everything quite nicely in the final minute. Including this tidbit of info in the final seconds before the credits.
“MARA” – according to Nordic mythology, means a supernatural, female creature who haunts you at night and is the cause of all bad dreams.
Hence the word: Nightmare
Didn’t know that.