HORROR; 1hr 40min

STARRING: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Horror hair day: Chastain

Presented by Guillermo del Toro and directed for multiple shrieks by Andrés “Andy” Muschietti, this ink-stained ghost story opens with “once upon a time” before slamming into top gear with desperate businessman Jeffrey (Coster-Waldau) on the run with his two little cherubs (Isabelle Nélisse and Megan Charpentier) after a shooting.


When their car skids into dense and snowbound woods, the three take shelter in a spooky, apparently abandoned cabin. No good ever comes of them, of course, and this one is no exception to the gruesome rule: Jeffrey bites the dust quick smart and five years later, when his cabin-bound girls are found, they’re creepy, feral scuttlers. Regardless, Jeffrey’s brother Lucas (Coster-Waldau again) takes them to live with him and his rock-chic girlfriend, Annabel (Chastain), blithely unaware that their ghostly and fiendishly jealous carer, Mama, is along for the ride.


The generic, bump-in-the-night scares are freakishly effective — fellow suckers for the psycho-supernatural will have plenty to gasp at, and the juicy, Goth-shock climax kills. What Chastain is doing on this lunatic fringe is anybody’s guess, but as diabolical luck would have it, she’s a poster girl for nailing her indomitable moments, even in the bleakest situations.