It’s mid-January, which means audiences are firmly in the middle of Hollywood’s dumping ground. This week finds an interesting range of releases, all of which feature predictable stories and talented casts. Still, at least one of the films works.
First up is a production from Guillermo del Toro: Mama, a thriller starring Jessica Chastain. Mama tells the story of two girls, Victoria and Lily, who disappeared in the woods one day. After five years of searching by their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the girls are found safe but feral, surviving without human contact. The girls are taken in by Lucas and his girlfriend, Annabel (Chastain), who soon discover that the girls weren’t alone in the woods for all those years.
Mama is one of the rare horror films that works, largely due to a genuinely creepy story and an excellent cast headlined by Chastain. Even though she’s played a number of characters over the past few years, earning Oscar nominations for her work in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain shows audiences a different style with the edgy, caustic Annabel.
As for the film itself, the storyline relies more on psychological horror over cheap blood and gore. The combination of shocking moments and genuinely creepy performances from the girls at the center of the story lift Mama above some conventional moments. For audiences looking for a good scare, Mama delivers.