It is exceedingly appropriate that "Mama" begins with the age-old story opener, "Once upon a time...," for the film wastes not a moment taking on the appearance and feel of a beautifully macabre fairy tale. Set in the real world yet fraught with foreboding whimsy, it's a supernatural thriller in the classic vein, relying on crafty suspense and an eloquently unfolding plot that aims to disconcert and frighten, then unexpectedly touch, the viewer. Executive-produced by Guillermo Del Toro—his stamp of approval is always reassuring—this curious tale of a specter's dangerous motherly love has been directed and co-written by Andy Muschietti, clearly taking great responsibility in expanding his much-acclaimed 2008 short to feature length. That he has a healthy budget, a top-notch technical crew, and the recently Oscar-nominated Jessica Chastain (2012's "Zero Dark Thirty") in the lead role only help his cause. "Mama" is an early-in-the-year scream, and deliciously so.
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