Reviewed By: Daniel Burden
Released: 4th March 2015
Directed By: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Starring: Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz
Certain films come with a degree of hype, sometimes it is inescapable. It can be the years long build up to Star Wars, or simply whisperings from festivals. But with new horror films the hype is usually what gets people into cinemas, particularly when it isn’t any kind of established franchise. You hear about these horror films before you ever see a single screenshot or trailer. They’re out there already, waiting, lurking in the shadows, word of mouth has already made you afraid.
The trouble here is that this hype and word of mouth from gushing critics and fans at festivals can give an overwhelming notion of what you’re to see before you see it. If you’re told a film is ‘THE SCARIEST MOVIES FOR DECADES’ then you expect it to be pretty bloody scary. I’d heard a lot about Goodnight Mommy before I saw it, and it is possible that I should have managed my expectations somewhat and gone in with a completely clear head. But that’s not always possible.
Goodnight Mommy tells us a story of a mother who returns home after having some extensive cosmetic surgery, her face wrapped in creepy bandages. Her two children, Elias and Lukas, have spent the summer running around the gorgeous countryside, having adventures, and generally misbehaving as young boys so often like to do. But Elias and Lukas very quickly start to think there is something wrong with the ‘mommy’, that she isn’t who she says she is. She refuses to acknowledge Lukas and her behaviour is aggressive and strange. She seems cruel and even hurts Elias physically, something both children firmly believe their real mother would never do.
What happens next, I simply can’t tell you. Goodnight Mommy relies heavily on the shocking events that follow and sadly, on a plot twist that is obvious from the first few minutes of the film. Certain films live and die on the power of the twist they introduce and Goodnight Mommy’s would b e a good one if it wasn’t so blatantly signposted from the very beginning. Suffice to say, Elias and Lukas decide to find out if this bandaged woman really is their mother, and violent chaos ensues.
While I didn’t much care for the plot, or the characters, and even the horror/gore aspects, while occasionally being stomach-churning and unpleasant, didn’t really land with me, it comes across as low grade torture porn in places, there are a few elements of Goodnight Mommy that I can recommend. The acting is certainly good, from Susanne Wuest as the mother, and real life twins Elias and Lukas Schwartz. Horror films are populated with creepy children and twins are the worst kind, these two boys do a wonderful job of playful innocence that turns into something deeply sinister as the film progresses.
The biggest positives on show here, the fantastic directions from Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, who also wrote the screenplay, is better than much of the standard Hollywood horror fare, and the sheer dread that drips on screen from the first minute. With a minimal use of music and some truly sumptuous cinematography in a beautiful rural location, there is no denying this is great looking film and that you do sit there just waiting for that moment when the terror truly begins. Unfortunately the actual terror gives way to nastier elements later in the film and it becomes increasingly hard to enjoy on any real level.
If you’re a hardcore horror fan then Goodnight Mommy might have something for you, it is well made and well-acted, but it isn’t really very good and certainly doesn’t live up to all the hype surrounding it.