Boy kills girl and self, thus forcing their young daughters, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse), to spend five years in a deserted cabin being raised by mom's ghost. The feral siblings are eventually captured and placed in the home of their father's twin brother (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend, a brunette, bobbed, and raccoon-eyed Jessica Chastain. Unless your nerves can't stand the shrieking violins that accompany every popping head, there is not a legitimate jolt in the entire picture. Logic never enters into it: noontime sun pours through the windows as Chastain chastises the girls for being up past their bedtime. When a Mama-induced fall places Coster-Waldau (or is it Scott Speedman?) in a comatose state, a nonplussed Chastain goes about her life as if nothing happened. The lifts from Marnie, Rear Window, and Un Chien Andalou show that director and co-screenwriter Andrés Muschietti did his homework. But the manner in which he smuggles in the homages proves that he learned nothing from his teachers. With only two expressions in her acting kit — pained and more pained — Chastain is rapidly becoming her generation's answer to Harrison Ford. The biggest stiff in this spook show is Daniel Kash, who barely registers in the perfunctory role of an earnest sawbones bent on rescuing the girls. Throw Mama from the multiplex.

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