Jessica Chastain outstanding in ‘Mama’

Movie Review
By: By Frank Miller Special to The News Messenger
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Directed by Andrés Muschietti              

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Megan Charpentier

Rating: Three out of five stars

Ghost stories are at their creepiest when children are involved, which is why a large majority of them are chock-full of the precocious little buggers.

“Mama” features two downright nightmarish tykes, Victoria and Lilly, who were abandoned in the woods for five years when they were practically infants.

The two seemingly survived in a feral state during that time, killing small animals and foraging for food, until they are discovered, rescued and sent to live with their uncle and his girlfriend.

At first, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Annabel (Jessica Chastain) don’t know what to make of the children’s strange behavior.

Not long after they adopt the kids, however, they discover that a ghostly presence known as Mama has followed the children to their new home and possibly helped them survive in the wilderness.

The movie is your standard ghost mystery where the lead characters must find out what the spirit wants to stop the haunting. It’s filled with jump scares, loud noises and an ominous soundtrack designed to induce goose bumps.

However, the film is fairly serviceable, even in its predictability, up until the third act when a wild tone shift turns it into the worst kind of Tim Burton-esque monster movie.

Chastain is remarkable in her role as Annabel, who is sort of a stunted adult, still clinging to her dreams of being a rock star and prolonging motherhood as long as possible.

Each of Chastain’s characters has been noticeably different from each other and she is carving out quite a career for herself with the diversity in her roles.

However, “Mama” is one of those movies that you can keep poking holes in the more that you think about it. It wouldn’t be a horror movie without dumb dialogue and terrible decisions but “Mama” doesn’t offer anything else that would make you want to see it more than once.

Frank Miller is a Sacramento writer.