MAMA

Elegantly shot hokum. At the beginning, this middling thriller seems like it’s going to be a psychological horror story whose “monster” is the incarnation of a spirit bent on vengeance, a la PUMPKINHEAD. But then comes a further supernatural twist about a drowning tragedy from the past involving an institutionalized woman and her daughter, a la THE RING. Along the way, characters are pretzeled into questionable motivations and action in order to set the various scares in motion. Jessica Chastain (who must have signed onto this because Guillermo del Toro’s name was attached — but be warned, del Toro is only the Executive Producer) plays a tough girl rock band performer not overly fond of children who apparently loves her boyfriend (charisma-free, barely there Nicolaj Coster-Waldau from “Game of Thrones”) so much that she barely thinks twice before giving up her musical dreams and life in the big city in order to care for the boyfriend’s nieces, two feral girls found living alone in the woods. Coster-Waldau is dispatched to a hospital by way of a clunky device in order to get Chastain home alone with the children — and with “Mama”, the spirit who seems to possess (or at least obsess) them. The apparition is nicely conceived, although it’s much scarier inside the house than in the film’s final outdoor segment, where it’s much more stylized, almost artsy. The resolution makes sense, but the movie is too long and should maybe have been shortened to MOM. — Jeff Schultz

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