The fact that the new horror film “Mama” finished first at the movie box office last weekend, without even one masked killed or chainsaw in the story, proves audiences still like a good scare that is left to their imagination.
“Mama” begins with a flashback to a murder committed by the father of two little girls, Victoria and Lilly. Involved in a financial scandal, he escapes to the wilds in his Mercedes with the girls, even though he has no idea where he’s going. After skidding off a snowy road, he heads into a forest with the children until he finds a deserted cabin. Once there he plans to kill his daughters and himself. It is at this juncture that the primary ghost in this film, “Mama,” the dead spirit of a disturbed woman from the 19th century who had jumped off a cliff with her infant child, and now inhabits the cabin, takes charge, killing the father and presumably raising the two girls for five years.
Throughout the time the girls are missing, their father’s brother, a failed writer and musician, has kept up a search for them. His girlfriend, a punk rock singer, is played in short black wig by Jessica Chastain. When the girls are located by two men hired to look for them, the brother and Chastain’s character try to raise the girls to see if them can bring them back to the “normal” world. They soon find that “Mama” has a different agenda.
There are a lot of jump-cut shocks. “Mama” is a very selfish ghost who slowly but surely makes her presence and appearance known. It isn’t pretty.
“Mama” has a fast, symbolic ending that pulls all ghostly and human elements together. I wouldn’t put it in the same category of a film like “The Haunting” from 1963 that starred Julie Harris, but it’s a scream in the right direction. Jessica Chastain is always a welcome sight in a movie. And there’s not one character in the film named Jason.