Dropped off at their mother’s remote country house by their estranged father, twins Elias and Lucas eagerly greet Mum, who they clearly haven’t seen for a while. She’s swathed in bandages after cosmetic surgery (she’s an ageing star) and, if her physical appearance is alarming for the boys, the change in her demeanour is even worse. Where she once was caring she is now cruel, her loving nature replaced by something colder and harsher. As her behaviour becomes more and more severe and, unable to contact the outside world or their dad, the twins become convinced that their Mum has been replaced by an imposter, and set out to prove it.
This American remake of the 2015 Austrian film of the same name
falls into similar issues to so many US remakes of smaller, more subtle foreign movies - it follows the same plot beats but is robbed of some of the darker elements which made the original so powerful. Hailed by some as one of the best horrors of the decade, the Austrian version becomes increasingly hard to watch as the lengths the twins go to become more and more upsetting. Here, catering to an audience unable to tackle subtitles, things never get to the unpleasantness that marked the original as such a stand-out.
On the plus side, it’s a well-crafted film, slow-paced and nicely photographed. The performances from the three leads are terrific and, whilst Naomi Watts is as good as she ever is, Cameron and Nicholas Corvette shine as the brothers who can not be separated. They convey a real sense of alienation and dread and that helps to make the film better than many other reviews have suggested.
In the end, the film stands or falls on the plot reveal that it hinges on. If you’ve seen the original and know what’s coming, this version is a fine if toned-down experience, but if you don’t know, it’s probably still going to offer you something shockingly unexpected. But even in this revelation, the US version can’t help but to offer redemption where the original had a darker, crueller and more effective conclusion.