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Susan Granger's review of 'Mama'

Published 3:04 pm, Friday, January 25, 2013
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Creepy scares abound in

this conventional creature feature. In the prologue, a distraught businessman, Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), goes berserk when his financial company fails.

After shooting his business partners with a pistol, he drives home and kills his estranged wife. Grabbing his two terrified, young daughters, Victoria (Morgan McGarry) and her toddler sister Lilly (Maya Dawe), he flees from suburbia on icy roads, skidding into a steep ravine, winding up in the snowy mountains in what appears to be an abandoned summer house. That's where Lilly observes, "There's a lady outside -- and she's not touching the ground."

Five years later, Jeffrey's twin brother, an artist named Lucas (also played by Nikolj Coster-Waldau), finally finds the girls, still living in the broken-down cabin. Deeply disturbed, they're filthy, feral animals, having lost most of their language skills and skittering about on all fours. Working

with a prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Gerald Drefuss (Daniel Kash), they draw pictures of their life in the woods, explaining that "Mama" took care of them. While Uncle Lucas

wants to raise Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), he's in love with self-centered Annabel (Chastain), a guitarist in a punk/rock band. She has her doubts, particularly when it becomes obvious that

an evil, vengeful presence known as Mama (CG-enhanced 7-foot tall-Javier Botet) is not

going to release its ghostly

grip on the girls, even when they move to Richmond, Va.

Executive produced by

Mexican-born Guillermo del Toro ("The Devil's Backbone," "Pan's Labyrinth"), it's haphazardly scripted by first-time feature film director Andy Muschietti, along with co-writers Neil Cross and his sister Barbara Muschietti, and based on the Muschietti siblings' 2008 three-minute short horror film, which originally intrigued del Toro.

Wearing dark, cropped hair, a tattoo sleeve and a tight-fitting Misfits T-shirt, Jessica Chastain looks nothing like her Oscar-nominated persona in "Zero Dark Thirty," while fans of TV's "Game of Thrones" may recognize Danish actor Nikolj Coster-Waldau as conniving Jamie Lancaster.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Mama"

is a spooky, grotesquely stylish, supernatural 6 -- with

a silly, contrived conclu-

sion.