Lukas (Lukas Schwartz) and Elias (Elias Schwartz) live in a house in the countryside. When their mother (Susanne Wuest) comes home, following facial surgery, they become convinced that she is not their mother.
Goodnight Mommy has a surreal, almost fairy tale quality as the twin brothers are kept in an isolated home, kept constantly dingy by their sick cold mother, a domineering matriarch who keeps them captive, the house, like a modern castle, exchanging crumbling brick with clean and sterile white walls, as she tries to drive a wedge between the twins’ bond. The twins lack a paternal figure, and any other contact with people outside of the house is fleeting and unhelpful. The figure of Mommy is an imposing and distressing sight, her head tightly bandaged, giving it a skeletal look and with her bloodshot eyes, she does not seem entirely human. This works well for the first half of the film, feeding into the twins’ paranoia that their mother may not seem to be whom they think. The film plays with the theme of identity, it is no coincidence that the boys are twins and the film has nice little details concerning the blocking and blurring of faces, and it also looks at the bond of family. The film turns its bloodshot eye to the question of whether you really know the person who is supposed to be your blood and what would you do if they changed.
Anticipation for Goodnight Mommy is high, especially after its supremely creepy trailer did the rounds on the Internet a few months ago, but unfortunately the film can’t match the trailer’s horror promise. Goodnight Mommy manages to conjure a feeling of creepiness and slowly mounting dread but never manages to create the genuine scares that you hope it will. Directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz orchestrate some memorable images, the mother walking alone in the woods, her face contorting unnaturally, the two boys chasing each other in a cornfield, but they don’t convert them in to genuine scares. Gladly, the third act does pull itself into uncomfortable territory, and the film starts to play around with who is really in danger from who, brought to a head with a particularly memorable scene involving super glue and a pair of scissors, and then Goodnight Mommy brings itself to a shocking and distressing finale that will stick in the mind.
Goodnight Mommy is a creepy and enjoyable film that unfortunately doesn’t reach any genuine scares. It’s certainly worth a watch and it contains some interesting ideas, and memorable scenes and shots but it lacks that extra push that would make it truly last.
GOODNIGHT MOMMY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTORS & SCREENPLAY: SEVERIN FIALA, VERONIKA FRANZ / STARRING: LUKAS SCHWARTZ, ELIAS SCHWARTZ, SUSANNE WUEST / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW