Moms, think long and hard about the next time you ground your kids.
10-year-old twins Elias and Lukas (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) are staying at their lakeside house for the time being and they don’t really have much of anything to do. Sure, they can go outside, run around, play in the woods, and go swimming, but other than that, there’s not much else that can hold their excitement long enough due to the fact that they’re literally in the middle of the woods, without anyone or anything else around them. What makes the trip all the more bothersome is the fact that their mother (Susanne Wuest) isn’t acting as her usual, loving, and adoring self; in fact, she’s downright miserable. Due to a recent facial-surgery she got, she’s been quite cranky and hasn’t really been one to make the best decisions when it comes to making this trip pleasant, and that’s what bothers both Elias and Lukas the most. They feel, due to this recent surgery, that their mother may not actually be “their mother”; instead, they think she’s been replaced by some evil, cackling monster who has set out to torture and kill these boys. Whether or not this is true, they don’t know, nor do they care, because they’re not going to take any chances.
Goodnight Mommy is a little fucked-up movie. It’s a good one in that it takes awhile for its fucked-up-ness to take center stage, and therefore, keep you in total wait and anticipation, but it’s a fucked-up movie nonetheless. Not too many of these kinds of movies can work without feeling gratuitous or better yet, just downright annoying, but co-writers and directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala have somehow found a way to make sure that they take enough time to where we’re invested, having no clue what’s next, and ultimately preparing ourselves for the disturbing events that unfold in the later-half.
And yes, they are quite disturbing, but the movie is smart in that it doesn’t fall back on that fact.
Instead, it actually presents a weird, but interesting story where we think we know where it’s going to go, due to the fact that we’ve seen so many countless other horror flicks just like it, but finds different ways on how to tell itself and keep you in the dark as much as possible, without ever feeling annoying. Of course, the movie shows you what it wants to show you and keeps a lot of things in the dark, but whereas that would mostly bother me with other movies, it didn’t do so here. Rather than feeling like a conceit the creators wanted to do just to mess with the audience, it felt like it was going hand-in-hand with the disorienting and sometimes confusing state of mind these kiddies must have been put in.
Sometimes, their mom will be all nice and sweet to them (overtly so, but still nice and sweet nonetheless). But at the other times, she’ll turn into this mean, dark and cruel shrill of a woman that acts more like their age, rather than her own. Sure, we have the feeling that due to the fact that these are kids and we’re seeing the story from their perspective, that maybe she’s just a bit pissed-off and over-reacting to certain things, but still, the movie makes us believe that anything is feasible. That the movie has you believe that this woman could actually be a, ahem, “monster”, is something to applaud, especially considering that, at times, it feels all too real and normal.
But the movie continues to go on and that’s about it. We never know what’s actually true, nor do we ever get easy answers to some downright frustrating questions. But still, that’s what makes these kinds of movies work and I’ll take that in a horror movie any time of the week, rather than just sitting around and watching a bunch blood, guts and gore spill-out just because “it’s freaky”.
No, it’s not! Weird child twins and angry mommies are!
Of course, the one aspect that holds Goodnight Mommy back quite a bit is that it sometimes feel like it’s not really doing much else. Sure, it’s eerie, it’s creepy and it’s hinting at some downright sinister places it could end up, but really, that’s all there is to it. We get some sort of insight into who the mom character is and why it is that she may be so upset and ticked-off during this whole trip, but it’s rather slight pieces of info that only seem thrown in there because the creators didn’t want to be criticized for being “shrill”. And I say all this considering what takes place during the final act, but I won’t give any of that away.
Just know, it’s fucked-up.
And as the mom, Susanne Wuest is pretty good because we never know full well what her deal is. Of course, a lot of that can be passed-off onto the film-makers and much less of her, but there is this odd sense of morbidness to her that makes us wonder what’s going to turn her into being mad-as-hell. Though she does get an opportunity to be a bit nice, there’s still a feeling of aggression with her and it makes us just as in-suspense as these kids are.
And playing those said kids, are actual real life twins, Elias and Lukas Schwarz. Both are, yes, creepy, but they also work well together in that they seem like they would have the kind of chemistry that two seemingly identical people would have growing up. They aren’t the same in terms of personality and they don’t always get along, but when their instincts are kicking, the other one feels it and that, to me, is what made this movie feel a whole lot more realistic than maybe what it had intended to be going for.
Still, they’ve got nothing on those Shining twins.
Consensus: Weird, mysterious, but most of all, creepy, Goodnight Mommy is a small, contained and intimate little piece of horror that feels a lot more raw and genuine than it may have intended for, but it still works nonetheless.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire