Most January movies are less exciting than a new episode of Two and a Half Men. It’s usually the month reserved for the cream of the crap. But Guillermo Del Toro‘s Mama, which hits theaters tomorrow, defies the first month movie stereotypes. For one, it doesn’t suck. It’s a well-crafted horror film, mainly thanks to Jessica Chastain, who is brilliant and unique in everything she’s in these days. But she’s not the only good thing about this movie. This is an old-fashion ghost story that doesn’t resort to blood and guts to terrify you.

The Players:

  • Director: Andrés Muschietti
  • Screenwriters: Andrés Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti and Neil Cross
  • Cast: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Megan Charpentier
  • Cinematography: Antonio Riestra
  • Music: Fernando Velázquez

The Plot:

Five years ago, sisters Victoria and Lilly vanished from their suburban neighborhood without a trace. Since then, their Uncle Lucas (Waldau) and his rocker girlfriend Annabel (Chastain) have been tirelessly searching for them. When the kids are miraculously found alive in a run-down cabin, the couple realizes that bringing them back into society will be harder than they imagined. As Annabel tries to introduce the children to a normal life, she grows convinced of an evil presence in their house.

The Good:

  • Jessica Chastain: Jessica Chastain has proven herself in Hollywood. She became a commodity with The Help and her star stock has just been rising since. In Mama, Chastain shows off a new type a character: a black-haired rocker chick who plays in a hard-core band, wears black nail polish and messy eyeliner. Chastain’s Annabel, however, is not your typical horror-film protagonist. She’s smart and doesn’t make dumb choices (like walking into a creepy cellar alone). Though the movie primarily focuses on the ghost story, Chastain’s character is very well-developed. She goes from a confused girl to a strong woman, and that’s an arc worth appreciating.
  • Ghost Story: Mama is a smart horror film that doesn’t get its scares from gore. It relies on the story and suspense. The film dives right into the supernatural. The filmmakers really made an effort to develop Mama’s story. She’s a ghost. But why? All of those things are tastefully answered in the movie. And, may we add, make her that much more terrifying. 
  • The Ending: Happy endings aren’t that memorable. So let’s just say, you’ll definitely remember this one.

The So-So:

  • A Few Dumb Things: Like many horror films, this one two has its flaws. One thing that the filmmakers forgot to address was how no one was able to find the girls in the cabin for five-years!!! The cabin was not all that hidden, and we know this because, at one point, Lucas and Annabel go there looking for the girls and they find the place pretty easily. So, it’s unbelievable how no one was able to find the place in such a long amount of time, when the search was going strong.

Overall:

Look, we get it. January is a cold month… even in Los Angeles. It’s much better to stay home and catch up on all of those movies sitting on your Netflix queued. But Mama is worth watching especially if you’re into horror movies. This is a high-quality genre movie that’s right up there with recently-released supernatural flicks like Sinister and Insidious.

The Rating: 8/10

Mama opens in theaters January 18, 2013.

Photo Gallery:

Trailer:

Will you be seeing Mama this weekend?