Saturday, October 3, 2015

Goodnight Mommy (2015)

Directors: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Notable Cast: Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz, Susanne Wuest

The idea behind a really great trailer is to build hype and often times a great trailer can make even the worst films seem incredible. This is why I went into Goodnight Mommy with a bit of reservation. The trailer was phenomenal. Almost too good. Good enough where I felt it might be covering up something. In a way, it was. However, it wasn’t covering up a bad film. Goodnight Mommy is actually quite the effective little horror film that could. What the great trailer was covering up was that Goodnight Mommy wasn’t nearly as scary as it was utterly unnerving as a horror film.

Elias and Lukas (Elias, Lukas Schwarz) live in the country side of Austria with their mother (Wuest). There was an accident though and their mother received some medical attention to her face that left her in bandages. When she comes home from the doctor’s, the two brothers begin to suspect that she is not who she says she is.

Hide and seek never felt so terrifying.
The fun and brilliance behind Goodnight Mommy is just how subtle the film plays out. The concept is very, very simple and at times it comes off as a really well executed Twilight Zone or Tales from the Darkside episode (minus the obvious humor). This allows directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala to meticulously unfold the story with lots of minute details and just a hint of dark humor in the mix. A larger plot point – and one that would seemingly be a big “twist” that the movie would use later on – becomes apparent very quickly in the movie and anyone with a decent horror viewing history will pick up on it with ease. However, as the film progresses it almost seems intentional that this contortion to the narrative was meant to be picked up with ease by the audience because it never receives the big reveal that one would expect in the final act. This is just one example of how Goodnight Mommy slowly burns its way through its plot.

However, occasionally the film feels too subtle with its painstakingly intent plodding pace. The first half of the film seems to take a long time setting up a lot of details that don’t necessarily have the biggest of payoffs in the latter portion – including a sequence where we see the young boys sharpening wooden darts to use on their toy crossbow, but leaving other details undeveloped like the horrifying use of super glue. Luckily, the film still works in many ways thanks to some phenomenal atmosphere from the directors and some astoundingly solid acting performances. While the plot remains slightly undercooked some of the character choices (it would have been nice to why the family wasn’t seeking help as things began to escalate), the performances still sell it. The two boys make a very strong connection to the audience and the mother, played with a very wide range of talent by Susanne Wuest, really hammer it home in the third act so that when things really dive into horror territory it’s still effective to get the audience hooked.

Halloween hit early in Austria I guess.
Goodnight Mommy wasn’t nearly as plot motivated or scary as the trailer made it seem, but it is a very effective and unnerving horror film that utilizes its minimal settings and characters to full potential. The last half, in particular, is impressively effective in its low key horror elements and horror fans are going to dig into film even if the results can be mixed. Goodnight Mommy is a great way to kick off my horror viewing for season though and it still comes with a very high recommendation as a film that knows where its faults lie and covers them nicely.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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