Creepy scares abound in this conventional creature-feature. In the prologue, a distraught businessman, Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), goes berserk when his financial company fails. After shooting his business partners with a pistol, he drives home and kills his estranged wife. Grabbing his two terrified, young daughters, Victoria (Morgan McGarry) and her toddler sister Lilly (Maya Dawe), he flees from suburbia on icy roads, skidding into a steep ravine, winding up in the snowy mountains in what appears to be an abandoned summer house. That's where Lilly observes, "There's a lady outside - and she's not touching the ground."
Mama - Spooky, Grotesquely Stylish (Universal Pictures)
Five years later, Jeffrey's twin brother, an artist named Lucas (also played by Nikolj Coster-Waldau), finally finds the girls, still living in the broken-down cabin. Deeply disturbed, they're filthy, feral animals, having lost their most of their language skills and skittering about on all-fours. Working with a prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Gerald Drefuss (Daniel Kash), they draw pictures of their life in the woods, explaining that "Mama" took care of them. While Uncle Lucas wants to raise Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), he's in love with self-centered Annabel (Jessica Chastain), a guitarist in a punk/rock band. She has her doubts, particularly when it becomes obvious that an evil, vengeful presence known as Mama (CG-enhanced seven-foot tall Javier Botet) is not going to release its ghostly grip on the girls, even when they move to Richmond, Virginia.
Executive produced by Mexican-born Guillermo del Toro ("The Devil's Backbone," "Pan's Labyrinth"), it's haphazardly scripted by first-time feature-film director Andy Muschietti, along with co-writers Neil Cross and his sister Barbara Muschietti, and based on the Muschietti siblings' 2008 three-minute short horror film which originally intrigued del Toro.
Wearing dark, cropped hair, a tattoo sleeve and a tight-fitting Misfits T-shirt, Jessica Chastain looks nothing like her Oscar-nominated persona in "Zero Dark Thirty," while fans of TV's "Game of Thrones" may recognize Danish actor Nikolj Coster-Waldau as conniving Jamie Lancaster.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Mama" is a spooky, grotesquely stylish, supernatural 6 - with a silly, contrived conclusion.
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