Expanded from a sharp 3-minute short, this horror mystery is packed with clever jolts and witty freak-out moments. Argentine filmmaker Muschietti creates such an oppressively intense atmosphere that we only barely notice how thin and underdeveloped the script is. But when we're not cringing from the eerie imagery, it's difficult not to see the contrivances and conveniences that fill the plot.
Orphans Victoria and Lilly (Charpentier and Nelisse) have survived in a woodland cabin for five years, and when they're discovered they are understandably animalistic. But their Uncle Lucas (Coster-Waldau) takes them in, fending off a custody battle with an aunt (Moffat) to raise his nieces with his rock-chick girlfriend Annabel (Chastain). Then Lucas is hospitalised after a strange nighttime incident, and Annabel is left alone in the house with these still-feral girls. Their strange behaviour makes Annabel suspect that they weren't alone in that cabin, and may have brought a jealous maternalistic ghost with them. So the consulting psychologist (Kash) starts to investigate the cabin's history.
Oddly, despite the fact that Chastain's personal odyssey is at the centre of the film, most of the narrative comes from the psychologist's procedural investigation into the identity of the woman the girls are calling "Mama". This involves implausible luck as he discovers ludicrously detailed records in dusty archives and then helpfully leaves his documents lying around so the right person can find them. Meanwhile, Coster-Waldau is needlessly marginalised in a corny plot turn early on. And it doesn't help that we never quite accept Chastain as a goth rocker, even though she gives it her best shot.
The film is most effective in the subtle horror moments, as Muschietti deploys simple directing tricks to send chills down our spines. When he's not pre-occupied with trying to make sense of his nonsensical plot or deploying just a few too many special effects shots, his playful camera work and editing are remarkably effective, and he knows how to get the best out of his cast as well. So it's disappointing when the requisite effects-driven finale rolls around, because once the digital trickery begins, it's simply impossible to care what happens. Especially since we've never fallen for the story to begin with.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th January 2013
Box Office USA: $71.6M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Mosfilm, Ralux Film, Romania Film
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 98 Rotten: 52
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Andy Muschietti
Producer: J. Miles Dale, Barbara Muschietti
Screenwriter: Neil Cross, Andy Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti
Starring: Mikhail Boyarskiy as Titi Suru the Wolf, Lyudmila Gurchenko as Rada the Goat, Oleg Popov as The Bear, Savely Kramarov as Little Wolf, Vera Ivleva as Sheep, Evgeniy Gerchakov as The Sheep, Natalya Krachkovskaya as The She-Bear
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...
Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...
As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...
After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...
Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds...
Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended...
Adopting a deliciously groovy vibe, Guy Ritchie turns the iconic 1960s TV spy series into...