During my senior year of high school I saw a video about a child in late 1700s’ France known as “The Wolf Boy,” a wild child who had lived in the forest for years until he was found and given to a scientist. Said scientist proceeded to reintegrate the child into society by teaching him to speak, eat, wear people clothes, etc. He was successful, and the child went on to live a normal life.

That was the easy way. Had I been the scientist and were looking after wild children like the ones in “Mama,” who brought with them serious, demonic baggage, I would’ve strapped a sack of cherries to their backs and wished them the merriest of farewells back into the woods.

However, Jessica Chastain—who played Annabel—was given this task when her boyfriend found his nieces who lived environmentally institutionalized in their own in a log cabin…or have they? Very soon after they arrived at the home, weird occurrences begin that are attributed to the ghostly figure known to the children as “Mama.”

As far as modern horror goes, “Mama” was consistently creepy, suspenseful and jolting, thanks to the dark-colored palette and the overall appearance and presence of Mama herself. Anyone who had to go to therapy for “The Ring” will most likely go through rehab after seeing the demon contort and crawl. Despite how much it succeeded in scaring the audience, the movie’s plot was far too misguided to ignore. The focus on Mama’s backstory exposed far too much of the villain. “Jaws” wasn’t about the shark’s reasons for coming to Amity, and “Poltergeist” wasn’t about one out-of-luck ghost’s attempt to make it on TV.

No matter the constant story problems, “Mama” knew how to creep out the audience by acknowledging that the space around us, what we cannot see, was what’s terrifying. Though much like “The Wolf Boy,” a simpler story of moving forward in life would’ve been more engaging, but “Mama” was good enough to quench the thirst of fear and gave us one more thing to be afraid of: coming across an unusual number of cherry cores in a secluded area.

Grade: B-

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