Chastain and the kids (Nélisse and Charpentier) are great, offering much in the way of character beyond the regular horror story staples of unwitting or fearful lead and creepy, vulnerable children. That isn’t to say they’ve escaped all horror movie conventions (Chastain’s wardrobe for one, and all sorts of wandering around in the dark for another). What’s great is that the flick offers some movement on an emotional level with what feels like natural relationship building between the girls and their guardians, making for a refreshingly grounded ghost story.
And the scares! “Mama” isn’t short in the jump out at you scares. I’m not a fan of those because I think they’re cheap. The way the music swells when that happens and then dies down to near silence thereafter is cheap. Mama’s got some of that. But she also has a great story (albeit with excess fat in the uncle and psychologist department) AND she’s got genuinely awesome horror! While the CG is a little too CG at times, it’s largely very well done. One GREAT part sticks out where mama stands, with a dislocated upright and slanted posture, at the end of a corridor. Victoria warns her sister not to look at mama because “she’s mad”. And is she ever.
There are plenty of loose ends in “Mama” suggesting that parts were edited out or were just dead ends, but a worthwhile experiences rises above it. And that ending… It goes confidently where it wants to go and is something of a bittersweet if not thought provoking (the conflicting kind) finale. Mama gets an 8.3/10. Go and see it.