By Kenneth Shipp
Here at Nerd Union, we typically despise most horror movies. Sure, we may have fun bashing on them, but don’t for a second think that it means we actually enjoy these horrible aberrations. With that being said, the hate we usually reserve for those won’t apply to Goodnight Mommy.
The story starts off with two young boys, twins Elias and Lukas (Elias and Lukas Schwarz, twins in real life) alone at home, who are making good use of their parental absence to explore and play in the fields near their home. Once their mother returns, we see that she has come home to recover after a facial surgery. The boys suspect something is wrong as she only acknowledges one of the brothers, Lukas and grows increasingly hostile and mean towards the pair.
Lukas and Elias are convinced that their mother has been replaced and they set about the task of finding out the truth. It’s here where we begin to get into very uncomfortable moments between the boys and their mother. They engage in some truly painful acts to extract information from their “imposter” because of how certain they are about the deception. Here in lies the chief suspense of the film: Is this really their mother? Are they imagining the information that leads them to believe she’s an imposter? Is all of this happening in the children’s minds? You will not be able to answer most of these questions until the end. I thoroughly enjoy that the directors left some of these unanswered directly as it allows you to really analyze the ending and make a determination for yourself of what really happened.
Dread is the chief tool in Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s horror toolbox. And for good reason; they use it to great effect during the entire film. Keeping the answers to those questions I raised close to their chest serves to make every interrogation moment that much more terrifying. Confusion would naturally be the second tool. Using a combination of the unknown and uncertainty of who is correct, either the boys or the mother, proves to be an excellent combination. This leaves you with no one to root for in this film. You can’t honestly trust what any of them are saying so you’re stuck as a spectator only, having to watch the boys engage in horrifying acts that knowing full well that they could be wrong.
The ending is definitely intricate and will not be spoiled here. But if you are squeamish, you may have issues with the scenes I’m referring to above where the boys are holding their mother hostage. While the moments are used to great effect, it’s not going to be for everyone. Not to mention that the confusion the filmmakers are able to generate is going to leave you more uncomfortable with the boys’ decisions. The film is visually very striking and the use of darkness and silence in key spots is well done. The imagery invoked by the boys, such as their masks and the pets they have collected in the house add to the eerie feeling that begins as soon the boys appear on screen.
Like I said before, I’m not usually blown away by horror films just like most of my Nerd Union colleagues. However, there’s really nothing negative that you’ll take away from this film. Mommy roots itself in a normal relationship and fractures it with a few key elements like childhood fear and mistrust that we have all experienced. It helps you quickly identify with the children, but if you leave your detective hat on long enough, you’ll still be left questioning the actions of both the boys and their mother. When a film can leave you that uncertain in a stimulating way, it’s done a great job in my book.
Goodnight Mommy: 9 out of 10
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