An effectively moody and atmospheric chiller about a pair of orphaned young girls who, after years of near-feral isolation in the woods, seem to bring back a spindly demoness with them when they’re reintegrated into society, Mama is a serviceable scary movie that never quite coheres into something special. In his feature directorial debut, Andy Muschietti’s film evinces the same mix of tony psychological horror and sinister fantasia present in some of executive producer Guillermo Del Toro’s own work, but gets tripped up clichés in the home stretch.
Both Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and the young Megan Charpentier are good, but Mama is a bigger lift for Jessica Chastain, and it reaffirms her talents as an actress while also minting her as a star. Apart from the mere different physical look, the film shows Chastain can credibly craft a character within a genre piece, which should go a long way toward keeping her in high demand with filmmakers. For the full, original review of Mama, from Screen International, click here. (Universal, PG-13, 100 minutes)