Actors: Susanna Wuest, Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz
Director: Severin Fiala, Veronika Frank
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
Release Date: December 1, 2015
Run Time: 99 minutes
It is clear about halfway through Goodnight Mommy that the Austrian horror film will make a perfect companion film to either Michael Haneke’s Funny Games or Under the Skin, though the obviousness of which would be more fitting depends on the effectiveness of the film’s red herring on each viewer. Filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala lay out clues to figure out the reality of the film’s narrative early on, but often pairs them with enough evidence to counter with an alternate possibility. This makes the film far less about a final twist and much more about the uncertainty and doubt following the most likely answer to the central question.
The question involves the identity of a mother (Susanne Wuest) arriving home to her nine-year-old twin boys after having cosmetic surgery. With her face covered in bandages and her behavior somewhat erratic, the two boys named Elias and Lukas begin to notice changes in their mother that they find suspicious. Physical alterations are enough to make them doubt the woman in bandages is their actual mother, and a quiet battle begins between the young boys and the woman they believe is an imposter.
What follows is rather sparse in terms of plot, but makes up for it in amount of tension expertly pulled from the premise. Goodnight Mommy is more powerful because of the purposefully limited information provided in the screenplay, allowing the audience to fill the gaps. It is also not necessarily a film with a twist ending, but rather, a film that provides hints early on and slowly increases them. Everyone will figure the film’s inevitable ending out at some point, which almost makes the film increasingly dreadful. Knowing what will happen does not make it any less horrifying, it just increases the amount of dread brought with the anticipation.
To say much more might influence a viewer’s experience with the film; I avoided watching the film’s trailer for this reason. What I can say is that it leans more in the direction of intelligent horror movies which have become increasingly popular recently with the success of The Babadook and, to a slightly lesser degree, It Follows. At the same time, I feel obligated to provide a warning about violence that was not needed with The Babadook. While nowhere near as disgusting as many
counterparts in the last 15 years, some of the images in Goodnight Mommy are truly nightmarish.
The Blu-ray release of Goodnight Mommy also includes a conversation with the filmmakers as the sole special feature. Franz and Fiala discuss the story and its inspiration in this brief extra. The film itself provides the kind of rich visual spectacle that comes alive in high definition, for better or worse. This is also the type of movie that relies heavily upon soundtrack (mostly effects, with a minimally intrusive score) in order to help establish the eerie mood, and that is presented excellently in 5.1 DTS-HD.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10
Historical Significance: 8/10