Movie Name: Goodnight Mommy
Studio: Ulrich Seidl Films
Release Date(s): August 30, 2014 (Venice Film Festival)/September 11, 2015 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
When their mother (Susanne Wuest) returns from facial surgery, twins Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) and Elias (Elias Schwarz) suspect their mother has been replaced with an imposter. As the woman claiming to be their mother tries to reconnect with Lukas and Elias, Lukas and Elias set out to prove that they are living with a stranger…and their mother might be in mortal danger.
Written and directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, Goodnight Mommy (originally titled Ich seh ich seh) is a Austrian horror thriller. The film premiered at the 2014 Venice Film Festival and was released in the United States a year later. The movie was well received by critics and made many “Best Of” lists for foreign films.
Creepy kid movies are…creepy and Goodnight Mommy plays on this idea. Despite being very original at points, I felt that Goodnight Mommy was more of a retelling of the ’70s horror film The Other (1972)…which isn’t bad but it removes a lot of the mystery surrounding the film. Due to the context of the story, a ******Spoiler Alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.
The Other dealt with a twin who pretended his other twin was alive. No one would acknowledge the twin but he was shown on screen throughout the movie. Half way through the film, it is revealed that the twin is dead. Goodnight Mommy has an almost identical plotline, but it is obvious that Lukas is dead pretty early on. I don’t know when the filmmakers wanted you to suspect that it was the boys who were crazy and not an imposter. I wish they had kept up one pretense longer than it did.
The cast is good. Real twins (using their real first names) Elias and Lukas Schwarz play the creepy duo. The movie has the two characters being rather mopey and uncommunicative (which helps) and that does help build the atmosphere. Susanne Wuest seems to let the “game” go on too long and it seems counter-productive to her to not try to get Elias to acknowledge that Lukas is dead when she is bound despite possible doctor’s orders…but she does pull off the tormented mother quite well.
The movie also has some interesting visuals. There is a strange foreign detachment that often comes with foreign films and that helps keep the plot believable. The ultra-modern house is good and the filmmakers do some interesting things in shooting Elias and Lukas to show the power struggle between the two.
Goodnight Mommy is a pretty hard film to watch. It gets pretty brutal as the film goes on (aka the superglue scene) and it also is infuriating at points (if Lukas is dead he is not pointing a crossbow at her…and the mother should just overpower Elias or lock him in the room instead of trying to run). It is worth seeking out for a creepy time, but I always love The Other and would rather watch that again first.