"Mama" comes from the horror brand well known to fans, that of Guillermo del Toro, and while there are some familiar elements in the new ghost story from director Andy Muschietti, the film doesn't quite live up to the executive producer's legacy.
Apart from some minor complaints, the critical reception has been relatively positive for "Mama," especially considering the genre. This is what the critics are saying about "Mama."
"Annabel and Lucas (Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a punky but nice bohemian couple, have taken over the care of their two nieces -- 8-year-old Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and 6-year-old Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse), who were found in a cabin in the woods five years after being kidnapped and abandoned by their crazy, violent financier father. (He went ballistic during the U.S. economic meltdown, then killed himself.) The two emerged from their ordeal as wild, feral children, but that's not what's scary. It's the fact that they found a spiritual 'guardian' named Mama." — Emily Rome, Entertainment Weekly
"Jessica Chastain has become a good excuse to see any movie, and this is for two reasons. The first is that it's a pleasure to watch her development. She has been consistently capable, usually brilliant and often quite different from role to role, and she's different in 'Mama,' too, playing a black-haired rock chick who discovers her maternal side under highly unusual circumstances." — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
"For the longest time we don't see much of the ghostly Mama, who apparently has been alternately caring for and terrorizing the girls all these years and has made the trip with them to suburbia. She flashes by the screen, or we see just the top of her head as she zips about the house. Once we do see her, yipes. Thanks to a combination of CGI and a performance by the extremely thin, extremely tall Spanish actor Javier Botet, this is one frightful Mama." — Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
The Final Word
"Andrés Muschietti's debut feature 'Mama' is hardly the first horror movie to riff on the idea that other people's children are little strangers, mysterious beings whose motives are impossible to fathom. But 'Mama' mines that idea with considerable grace and more than a few chilly glissandos." — Stephanie Zacharek, Film.com