THERE'S SOMETHING dead and rotting at the center of "Mama," and it isn't the ghost of the woman who lends the horror film its title.
No, the cadaverous entity that animates "Mama" is, rather, the modern imagination. We have, as filmgoers, become so unused to using our own brains - to think, to feel, to visualize the invisible - that many filmmakers feel compelled to show us everything. The contemporary horror film is like porn: effective, but soul-deadening.
And so it is with "Mama." Sure, it's scary enough, but cheaply, not deeply. The story about two orphaned girls who are found living in a remote cabin in the woods with an ectoplasmic caregiver contains enough frights to satisfy the minimum recommended allowance. But it doesn't engender the kind of dread that lingers as you walk from the theater to the parking garage.