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Goodnight Mommy - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Goodnight Mommy
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

As horror movies go, Goodnight Mommy is the kind that will sneak up on you, even in that context. You expect a movie like this to scare you, but in this case, you spend the first while wondering when the hell something is actually going to happen. And then things get progressively weirder, until you find yourself seriously disturbed.

This is in no way a conventional horror flick. No clear-cut villain, no typical jump-start moments designed to make you shit your pants. For the most part it's a story with just three characters: twin boys Elias and Lukas (Elias Schwarz and Lukas Schwarz, apparently playing parts with their real first names), spending time alone in the secluded home of their local talk show host mother (Suzanne Wuest). Mother is just back from cosmetic surgery, so when we first see her and through most of the film, her face and head are mostly covered with gauze. There's something vaguely creepy about both her appearance and demeanor, and evidently the boys feel the same way: they immediately start to doubt that she is their real mother.

This mother, by the way, is not particularly maternal. She says weird things to Elias, and doesn't talk at all to Lukas. There are moments when she seems slightly emotionally abusive.

It's difficult to say much about Goodnight Mommy without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that none of these characters are quite what they seem at first, and the direction the story seems to be going at first -- and co-directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Franz also co-wrote) really take their time on this -- ultimately takes a rather surprising turn. None of them seem particularly worthy of our sympathy. We're just watching shitty people being shitty to each other. We just don't realize how shitty they are, or what unique brand of shitty it is, until late in the game. Whether it's worth the wait is a matter of debate.

There are some moments that ring so untrue they pull you out of the movie. At one point a couple of Red Cross volunteers stop by the house and they walk right in just because the door is unlocked. It's meant to be a tense scene, where we wonder if these strangers will discover a recent development of horror behind a closed bedroom door. But when these volunteers make small talk with each other as they sit at the dining room table, their dialogue is bizarrely contrived. Nothing about these two characters feels real, and other stuff involving outright torture between family members is more believable. It's a very odd, and peculiarly dull, detour.

But if you make it past that, Goodnight Mommy will eventually deliver some scenes and imagery that will sear themselves into your memory. You might want to go watch a dumb romantic comedy afterward just to cleanse your palate. We're talking things like the corpse of a cat suspended in an aquarium full of water; a giant jar filled with wriggling giant bugs (also put to other uses that to some might seem somewhat tame but I could barely handle); superglue applied to certain parts of the face. This story gets truly dark, and scary in an unusually legitimate sense: not because of a stereotypically crazed psychopath, but because of deeply entrenched emotional instability due to internalized trauma. Sometimes tragedy can fuck people up in all the wrong ways, and that shit is scary.

Or at least, as evidenced by this movie, the Austrians have a very specific way of making it so.

Twins Lukas and Elias offer more than you bargained for in GOODNIGHT MOMMY.

Overall: B
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