In this day and age, positive buzz on a horror movie can be a dangerous, dangerous thing. Any film that premieres to a positive reception will inevitably then catch an equally negative blowback once too-smart-for-fun horror fans decide they sound cooler if they dub something as being overrated (see: The Babadook and It Follows).
Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s Goodnight Mommy seems to have suffered a similar fate. In my opinion, like the aforementioned oddly divisive horror films of last year, this one also more than merits its initial positive reception.
Quick Plot: Elias and Lukas are an especially close pair of Austrian twins who live with their pseudo-celebrity mother in an isolated but sprawling country estate. As Ma recovers from surgery, the twins spend their time doing healthy youth activities like playing in the outdoors and collecting giant cockroaches.
Life isn't quite as bucolic as it used to be though, as Ma seems to have changed. She's distant now, especially to the more rascally Lukas. Wrapped in gauze bandages, Ma may not even be the same woman who once so lovingly cared for her boys. Eventually, Elias and Lukas decide to find out the hard, super glue-and-restraint way to determine if she's an imposter.
Goodnight Mommy is a strange, wonderfully creepy little film. The setting and tone bears an odd resemblance to Ex Machina's isolated modern setting, with the sparse but carefully detailed art direction helping to set the scene. The performances, particularly by the otherworldly young Lukas and Elias Schwarz, are perfectly unnerving in just the right way.
To say more risks spoiling what for me, was a shock of an ending. In all honestly, I can’t remember the last time I felt so darn dumb at a reveal, because in hindsight, Goodnight Mommy is exceptionally clever. It never cheats, and that allows its ending to hit all that much harder.
Twins in cinema is always ripe for potential, and with their tics and secret language, Lukas and Elias are used to perfection here
Not that there's anything wrong with this, but I do find it impossible to not get this title confused with the very different but weirdly wonderful Lifetime movie Don't Wake Mommy. Such is my plight
In Austria, an unlocked door is an open invitation for Red Cross volunteers to enter your home
Never apply crazy glue if you don’t have an exit plan
If you really want your kids to leave you alone, you might want to invest in a nanny or all-access cable system. I know there's a modern way to raise your kids and all, but you may only be hurting yourself in the end
Goodnight Mommy is a weirdly haunting film, and I found it incredibly effective. Its slow pace may certainly turn some views off, while savvier ones than I will no doubt spot the twist before its rather hard-hitting reveal. You can find the film free on Amazon Prime and it’s well worth a watch.