Graphics That Pull You Out Of The Movie
*This post contains plot spoilers for Mama*
The difficulty in choosing a focal film for this post was that it's too often the case that horror films are the go-to genre for truly awful special effects. I had plenty of choice but wanted to choose a film where the graphics had a majorly detrimental effect on my viewing experience.
I wrote a small review of Mama not long after seeing it, which can be found here, and touched on the low quality of the effects used in it, and this is the film most fresh in my memory whereby the graphics were too bad to enjoy. The concept of Mama as a mysterious presence that is only mentioned for the majority of the story requires a great deal of suspense and pay off in order to be effective. Instead, Mama is revealed quite clearly, in all of her hideously rendered glory, within the films prologue. While showing the antagonist so early in the film is a pretty self-destructive mistake it would have been less of a problem if it weren't for how bad the character actually looks.
Mama is a bundle of emaciated, dirty limbs topped with a gaunt, wild-haired face. She floats above the ground and holds the painful looking posture of a broken spine. Aside from the floating, which was a new development from the short film this is based on, there is nothing about her that could not have been achieved through practical effects and we all know how effectively scary body distortion can be when you can see that it's real. Hell, the movement tests from the films special features is miles scarier than anything from the finished film.
The decision to render Mama as a completely digital presence seems to only allow for some of the films more 'impossible' body distortion scenes which actually come off as more ridiculous than scary, so that was clearly a good decision. Even when we see Mama in her 'human' form she is CGI, which seems completely absurd but is probably due to no actual human possessing a face the size of the one they pasted onto the ghostly being. Mama is built up as a shadow dwelling, malevolent force and had she been created in a way that matched her reputation the film would have been much stronger, but as it stands her digital mug is given far too much screen time for something so shoddy. I won't even begin with the digital 'skinnied' children, I'll just let the picture below speak for me on that one.
Mama's script was never going to allow it to be a great film, but better graphics could have at the very least made it a scary one.