Written by / 1/22/2013 / No comments / , ,

MAMA

year: 2013 cast: Jessica Chastain, Megan Carpenter, Daniel Kash rating: **1/2
Over a decade ago, when they re-released THE EXORCIST in theaters, adding a deleted scene where Linda Blair’s possessed Regan walks upside down on all fours – referred to thereafter as the “Spider Crawl” – it was both chilling and nightmarish. So here’s to a new generation of Spider Babies, two of them reared in the woods by a mysterious wraith known as MAMA and then adopted by their city slicker uncle and aunt to be raised domestically… Good luck!

Uncle doesn’t matter since he’s given a break halfway through – as he recovers in the local hospital, Jessica Chastain’s grungy rocker Annabel stays at a big house to watch over the two wild children; Victoria and her younger sister Lilly: both a cross between literary wolf-raised kids and the kind of possessed brats popular in horror films.  

The stipulation from an investigative Doctor Dreyfuss (sort of a medical version of the Exorcist himself) is that the only way the couple could adopt the children would be to stay at this particular cursed dwelling. And like all “haunted house” movies, you have to stretch disbelief to the limit as to why anyone would stick around such a formidably spooky pad, especially when Mama, a stretched-out demonic witch seemingly born from gangly vegetation, keeps appearing with enough vengeful shrieks and moans to wake a thousand dead souls.

The shock value works well on two important levels: The setting is ominous, giving the impression anything can happen at any time – and there’s an abundance of successfully spooky jolts that occur out of nowhere, several having the title character rushing toward the screen in an ominous whoosh! 

The director (and producer) knows how to manipulate nightmare images, but towards the middle and end are too many computer effects. Plus, the suburban house location is much scarier than the woodsy cabin where the story begins and that several characters sporadically return to. 

What’s better off implied becomes much too visible: That being Mama, who can be pretty darn scary, sure, but those two little girls crawling around during the first twenty minutes provide just as many, if not more, chills to the old spine. 
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