Directed by: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Starring: Susanne Wuest, Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz
Goodnight Mommy was not what I expected, and yet it was exactly what I expected. The film is haunting and original yet familiar and even formulaic to hardcore horror fans. The characters are desperately sad. Twin brothers await their mother’s return home after major cosmetic surgery. Once she finally returns home her entire face is bandaged, and we soon learn that there’s more despair at hand than meets the eye. The two boys begin to notice their mother acting differently, even violently.
This Austrian film is somber, slow and haunting, moving and nearly perfectly paced. This is mot a film full of jump scares; instead it features sadness, and surprisingly disturbing scenarios. The film is presented in German language with English subtitles. The story is so well rendered visually that you can nearly follow it beat for beat without reading the subs. The score is perfectly underused in this film. American films often feel the need to try and push tension forward with heavy music use. Often a scene feels more surreal and tense when there’s nothing but natural sounds. Every scene executed in this manner in this film works amazingly well. Since when are two kids and their mother so quiet?
The success of the film sits on the shoulders of Lukas Schwarz and brother Elias Schwarz and they handle the pressure like old pros. Their acting throughput the film is spot on. That’s not taking anything away from Susanne Wuest. She’s creepy, scary, and perfectly difficult to read. Her bandages are horrifying. They look like an almost more twisted Joker mask. If I have to say something negative about this film I’d say that it does rest comfortably on a story formula that has been used a lot, especially in European films but also in some notably American films too. You may recognize the formula early on, or because it is done so well, you may not. In the end, yes I’ve seen this before, but it is done really well here and there are many thrills to be had. The best thing about Goodnight Mommy is the atmosphere and that is perfect from beginning to end.