Director Andres Muschietti's debut is a decent throwback to when ghost movies were about mood and unfinished business. Think Caspar, except mean and living in your walls.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
The last thing Annabel wants right now is kids.
For one thing, she’s broke. She’s got ripped jeans and tattoos and plays bass for a Ramones rip-off band. But through a series of unfortunate events, she ends up saddled with two little girls who, for the past five years, have lived alone in the woods.
Feral and untrusting, the girls, their therapist suspects, have some serious mental issues. They stare at the walls and call them Mama. Still, they need structure, he says, and so instead of handing custody over to their seemingly stable aunt, he sends them home with Annabel.
The sense in all of it is iffy, to say the least. But that doesn’t matter. The point is the girls are Annabel’s responsibility now, and she has to learn to care for them. And that’s a theme worth exploring.
The only problem is, I think I like what this movie tries to do a little more than what it actually does.
Although Jessica Chastain (who also plays the lead in “Zero Dark Thirty”) brings a real humanity to her character, I never bought into her whole punk-rock routine.
And as for the scares, some are spot on and others are just plain hokey.
This is a movie of moments, though, and it depends entirely on the emotions between the girls and Annabel, the same as between the girls and Mama, for those moments to pay off. And that’s more than you can say for most horror films.
“Mama” relies more on mood and mystery than murder, and you’ve got to respect that. And even though much of the movie is forgettable, I really found myself rooting for it.
Yeah, it has the stereotypical rogue therapist character, and the obligatory old-loon ghost expert, and the same-old, same-old scare tactics. But it's also not afraid to let Mama be a real character, there are some truly creepy images and you know what? The ending is gutsy and surprising.
Don’t expect too much out of this one and you won’t be disappointed.
“Mama” (PG-13, 1 hr 40 minutes)
Director: Andres Muschietti
Released: Jan. 18
*** (of five)
“Mama” is nothing special but it has its moments. If you didn’t make it out to opening day, consider this your second chance.
Rotten Tomatoes 64% fresh (of 81 critics)
IMDB 6.6/10 (of 1,121 fans)
Richard Roeper *** (out of four)
Peter Travers ** .5 (out of four)