As criminal psychologist Kate helps with a murder investigation that the police seems to consider an open and shut case, she discovers that other forces may be at play, putting herself in harm’s way as she investigates.
Based on a story by Jonathan Frank and Clive Tonge, Mara is written by Jonathan Frank and directed by Clive Tonge. Together they create a story that feels familiar with a few fresh elements added to it all interesting. The story does make fairly good use of the unknown factor, but it doesn’t build on the tension and suspense enough, rendering a potentially scary story only entertaining. The titular character is interesting and is given a fully fleshed out background as the film advances but something feels like it’s missing which will lead some to feel like what is missing is a sense of the unknown, leaving the film with very little dread or fear from this unknown or Mara. The story may be scary to casual horror fans, but will most likely not be all that scary to genre fans who have seen a lot of this story’s type.
Supporting the story is the cast filled with people doing their best and showing a passion for what they do in most cases. In the lead of Kate is actress Olga Kurylenko who does well working through her character’s discoveries and steps towards acceptance. She gives a performance that works here, giving the viewer an emotional anchor throughout the story. Oddly enough, her accent is not even in all scenes, making it difficult to pinpoint what she was going for here. That being said, she gives a more than decent performance with some nuances while helping the film go through its process without losing the viewer’s attention. Giving the strongest performance of the film is Craig Conway as Dougie. He takes his possibly deranged, most likely right, paranoid character and gives him a truth, a reality in how he interprets the manias, ticks, and interactions. Dougie becomes a central character quickly and effectively through Conway’s work. Playing the title character and giving her the right amount of creep and making the viewer’s skin crawl just a little bit is monster actor Javier Botet who’s now a master at this having played plenty monsters/supernatural beings both male and female. His work here is oftentimes chilling while staying shrouded in some mystery.
Mara is not only created by actor Javier Botet but also by the special effects team led by make up effects department head and designer Bill Johnson with make up department head Ashley Treadaway and visual effects by Kevin O’Neill. These teams come together to create a supernatural creature that is gradually presented to the viewer until the end of the film when she is clearly seen. Unfortunately, the design here doesn’t feel all that original and is not all that scary when fully revealed, something about the being feels clunky and not entirely on point. That being said, she does get a few creepy moments before being fully revealed.
The cinematography by Emil Topuzov has some beautiful moments and a few truly eerie ones that help create the film’s atmosphere. This paired with the score by James Edward Barker, which is moody with some create vocal moments, create these feelings perfect for the film. The way these two elements come together adds a lot to the film and how it grabs the viewer.
Mara is a decent film with a few nicely tense sequences and a few somewhat scary scenes, but overall it’s not a frightening film as it tried to be. The story is a touch predictable, but still enjoyable with an ending that is somewhat dark and definitely not a pure Hollywood ending. The cast does good work with actor Craig Conway coming out on top as most effective performance with the best connection to the audience. Olga Kurylenko is good in the lead and monster actor Javier Botet gives life to Mara. The scare factor for Mara gets a bit lost in her design and execution leading to her partial appearances being scarier than her full appearances. Overall, Mara is an entertaining and enjoyable enough film, but it’s low on scares. The cinematography and score do make it work a watch above all else.