‘Goodnight Mommy’ Will Make You Say Goodbye to Sleep

Lukas+hiding+from+an+eerie+looking+mother+in+Goodnight+Mommy

Lukas hiding from an eerie looking mother in Goodnight Mommy

James Mason, Staff writer/editor/critic

There seems to be a growing trend in independent horror films lately. First The Babadook, then It Follows, now Goodnight Mommy. Three spectacular movies, all released within the last two years, and all defying the current trend of what a horror movie is expected to be. Why can’t Hollywood take note of this?

Even Austria has caught on, giving us Goodnight Mommy. Yes, because it’s Austrian, it’s in German, so it’s subtitled. But why should that matter? Anyone who refuses to see a movie just because it’s foreign and doesn’t feel like reading deserves whatever junky remake Hollywood’s going to spoon feed them a few years from now.

We can assume Hollywood is going to remake Goodnight Mommy. How could they not? Austria has just given us one of the most terrifying premises ever put on film.

Twin nine year old boys (Elias and Lukas) live with their mother in a beautiful house, isolated in the equally beautiful Austrian countryside. Their mother has just come back from having facial surgery, her face covered in bandages with little slits for her eyes and mouth.

Even though the movie doesn’t start before the surgery, viewers get the feeling she’s different. Treating one boy better than the other (for no obvious reason), employing odd rules (no noise inside the house, shades drawn in the middle of the day), and at times acting just bizarre (making the boys only play outside). Even the twins notice something isn’t right, and slowly become convinced that the woman who came home isn’t their real mom.

It’s a terrifying premise right from the start. And writer/directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala know exactly what their doing with it. Carefully pacing each scene, Goodnight Mommy plays out slowly, as if to make the viewer keep questioning and re-questioning everyone and everything that’s happening. The dread builds to an almost unbearable level. You know you’re in trouble when the creepy twins aren’t the ones to be afraid of.

Then it takes a turn.

After toying with several (equally horrifying) ideas, the movie, in a single scene, shows which direction it’s headed. Like it or not. From this point on, I just couldn’t relax. The second half of Goodnight Mommy was one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever seen, playing out like an inescapable nightmare. It took all my willpower not to hold up my hands and watch through my fingers. Even if you’re a horror enthusiast, it’s still an endurance test to sit through (and I mean that in a good way).

Then the ending happened.

I won’t spoil anything, but I didn’t see it coming, and it made a lot of the earlier scenes make sense. Even scenes that I thought felt normal were given different meanings by the time it was over.

What’s also great about it is that even if you can guess the twist (which I couldn’t), it doesn’t affect the movie. If anything, it makes it scarier since you can see the inevitable.

But Goodnight Mommy is great beyond its ending. In the same vein as Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (also Austrian) and Cache, it disturbs not from what it depicts, but from the thought behind what it depicts. Rather than aim for the gut, like most violent horror movies, Goodnight Mommy aims for the mind. Which is where it will stay and haunt you days after seeing it.

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