Goodnight Mommy

GOODNIGHT MOMMY is my second to last film to review prior to completion of my TOP 20 films of 2015 and it’s a goody. It is a subtle, powerful and incredibly intelligent Austrian horror movie. It screened as part of 2015’s Sydney Film Festival and is available to own on DVD, Blu Ray and Digital. It was selected as the Austrian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards but sadly it was overlooked and not nominated. It is a Top 5 film in my 2015 movies and a movie I have watched a couple of times now and truly love.

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BY JASON KING

GOODNIGHT MOMMY is 2015’s THE BABADOOK, it is a nouveau gothic horror film, a psychological trial for the viewer, more a mind messing torture film that has seen some people walk out of cinemas due to how uneasy the movie can make you. It explains little in the backstory but has no need because the perfection in the acting, plot and flow of the screenplay dominates the movie and will enthral you while messing with your head and constantly questioning who is good and who is bad.

The movie is set on a beautiful property in the Austrian woods in a very modern and architecturally sublime wealthy homestead, the people who live here have a more comfortable life and their stunning house is similar in design to the house in EX MACHINA in that it appears somewhat remote and looks like an Ikea concept home; clean lines, minimalist, but somewhat blended into the environment without being a strain or an eyesore on it. It is the perfect setting for this somewhat modern creepy gothic tale, the interior has masks, blurry photos, and a general artistic quality to compliment that the characters are not all what they seem.

 

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Gorgeous nine year old twins, Lukas and Elias, are inseparable, they do everything together, finish each other’s sentences and have each other’s back. The property and the wilderness is amazing and they tear it up swimming, running around or playing in the rain. They are playing on the property awaiting the return of their mother who returns tooting her horn. All we see is her head wrapped in bandages and her laying down the new law to the twins. It looks like a high-end plastic surgery of some sort, with work on her nose etc. Her bandages make her look quite creepy and her German language is bossy and abrasive to the children, I immediately disliked her thinking these kids were being mistreated. It gets even worse when she refuses to talk to Lukas and even goes as far as refusing to feed him – seriously what the hell lady? You do not treat any children this way.

But while the kids have fun together and desperately try to initially please their mother, they are scared of her and start to suspect that she, in fact, is not their mother. As her abuse escalates their unfathomable loyalty to each other pushes them to question their parental figure even further and eventually they turn into this cross between the home invaders in Haneke’s FUNNNY GAMES and the twisted sisters from THE SHINING, deciding to take the battle to their mother who is more like a monster in the attic.

 

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The movie moves into quite brutal territory, territory I could not watch in FUNNY GAMES, a movie I walked out of because the torture was hurting a child/children, in this it swings the other way and I could stomach it easier but it did not stop me from cringing every time something happens, some of the scenes you may find incredibly disturbing.

Now it is a “twist” movie, it has a reveal towards the end but the filmmakers keep dropping occasional hints that you will work it out much sooner, but the reveal was not supposed to be a secret, it was supposed to highlight beliefs, bonds between mother and child/children, the unbreakable bond of twins and what trauma and/or tragedy can lead people to do, especially when they are in a corner and their very wellbeing is threatened.

GOODNIGHT MOMMY is an aesthetic beauty to watch, the architecutral starkness and the silence of the film highlight as opposed to numbs the tension, sounds appear magnified and carry more meaning than a beaming score. It is beautifully shot by Martin Gschlacht on 35mm and to further build the tension the actors were not given scripts prior to filming and the entire movie is shot in sequence. It all adds to escalate the creep factor and make you squirm a bit more and first-time feature directing duo Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz have created a marvel that plays on intelligent fears and phobias. They go for mood subtlety as opposed to cheap Hollywood horror thrills and if you aren’t a fan of bugs and dentists or anything with your mouth close your eyes :).

 

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The acting is superb, there is seven minor characters that I don’t think need mention and then there is mother, played by Susanne Wuest, brilliant creep-out character played exceptionally, some of those scenes would have been hard to play, especially in her bedroom and I applaud her for it. The twins are just remarkable for their age, Lukas and Elias (the characters) are played by real life twins also called Lukas and Elias (Schwarz). Wearing the same clothes and always being so close to each other definitely brings back memories of the creepout sisters in THE SHINING and for the most part their acting comes across as very natural, there was their bath scene near the beginning when one of the goes to look to camera and realises and quickly moves his head but it is easily forgivable, because they are so brilliant together.

 

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Hollywood jump and scream horror it is not, in fact I do not even think “horror” is the correct description for this movie, “psychological modern gothic mind fuck” is more appropriate. I bought my copy off Ebay from overseas and I know JB Hifi does not yet sell it, not sure what VOD services you may have but this work of sheer brilliance demands to be seen. GET INTO IT.

 

5 Pops

 

 

Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.