There's a line about two-thirds of the way through the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror flick Mama where a psychiatrist hypnotizing a little girl asks her if she's asleep. Yes. In fact, by then, so is the audience.
Here's the story. A father kills mom and runs off with his two daughters. They get into a wreck and slide off a snowy road. He walks with the kids into the woods and finds a cabin. They go inside, something kills him but leaves the kids alone.
Five years later and after a long search, the uncle finds the girls. Everyone wonders how they survived. Mama, the ghost that killed dad, has raised and cared for them. She's ticked that the kids were taken and follows them. That leads to ghostly doings of all kinds. Mama is a mass of whirling dresses and hair, and she slides through icky holes in walls. Wading through the mystery of how Mama got to be a ghost and the zip for intensity climax is painful.
Attention is being given to the film only because del Toro attached his name, and the suddenly very hot Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) is the main character. As always, she's very good. The two kids share quite a bit of screen time. They're not very good actresses, but they're playing children who are disconnected from the world and their disconnected acting works.
At the point in the film where the psychiatrist talks about sleep, you've seen just a few quick glimpses of the ghost, with accompanying sound designed to shock and startle. Not much else.
Here's the problem. The movie is done by brother and sister writers Andres and Barbara Muschietti, and it is based on a three-minute short. Three minutes? Three-minute stories cannot be stretched into a full-length motion picture.
Director: Andres Muschietti
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nelisse
Mr. Movie rating: 1 star
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, horror. It is playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.