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Review: 'Mara' will put you to sleep

Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2018 at 11:20 AM Central
Last updated Tuesday, November 6, 2018 at 11:21 AM Central

by John Couture

... Permanently.

That sounds like a good tagline for an interesting horror film, right? Well, it would be if the film in question didn't result in heavy eyelids for its audience.

It's never a good sign when a movie induces a slumber state, but it's really bad when a horror film built around sleep paralysis does the trick. Unfortunately, this is the case for Mara which looks deceptively good from its trailer but settles for mediocrity when it could have done so much better.

Olga Kurylenko (where have you been?) stars as Kate, a criminal psychologist who is brought in to investigate a mysterious death that they believe might be a homicide. When the victim's young daughter, who witnessed the murder, claims that the killer is Mara, Kate gets sucked through a rabbit hole of sleep paralysis and folklore about a centuries-old demon who stalks her victims while they sleep.

The idea of a killer stalking victims in their sleep is certainly not a new one. In fact, A Nightmare on Elm Street series is probably the most successful horror franchise to use this concept. Of course, they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so then I suppose Wes Craven and Robert Englund would be flattered.

In fact, the idea of sleep paralysis in horror movies seems to be in vogue lately as well. I can think of Dead Awake and Slumber as two in recent years that have tapped into this condition. In fact, there are so many parallels to Slumber, that I'm not entirely convinced they aren't the same movie.

The problem with Mara is that the first two-thirds of the film is a discombobulated mess where they tease certain things that would make for interesting arcs to follow and then completely abandon them for mediocre cheap thrills. By comparison, Slumber is a straight-ahead horror film that unabashedly rollicks in horror clich├ęs and realizes satisfying scares as a result.

Mara really subverts the interesting story elements for something more typical of popular horror fare ala The Ring and The Grudge. At the end of the night, the film just doesn't have enough scares in it to keep the viewer involved and I found myself nodding off without any fear whatsoever that Mara would punish me for my sins.

On a positive note, it was fun to see Olga Kurylenko in the spotlight again. It had been a hot minute since we were mesmerized by her performance in Oblivion and it's refreshing to see her again. Genre actresses have a tendency to be pigeon-holed and quickly forgotten when the next big thing comes along, but Kurylenko is quite a talent and should be cast in more movies.

Mara is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.