A creepy and atmosheric Austrian horror film, Goodnight Mommy (2014, dir. Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala) recalls the existential dread of both childhood and parenthood, and the child’s attachment to its caregiver, in an extremely excruciating and tense manner. Its synopsis is as follows:
In the heat of the summer, a lonesome house in the countryside between woods and corn fields, lives nine-year-old twin brothers who are waiting for their mother. When she comes home, bandaged after cosmetic surgery, nothing is like before. The children start to doubt that this woman is actually their mother. It emerges an existential struggle for identity and fundamental trust. (source)
Goodnight Mommy is one of those horror films that doesn’t rely too much upon horror movie clichés. At the beginning of the film you see references to a lot of cliché’d horror film settings – a cornfield, a placid lake, a cemetery. But in this film, the horror is both set within the family home, and within the minds of two young twin boys – played to perfection by real life twins, Elias and Lukas Schwartz. Horror film twins have a reputation for being creepy and scary, and these kids are no exception.
The film is directed so beautifully by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. Every frame looks so gorgeous and beautifully measured, drawing your eye towards points of interest, even when you might want to look away from some highly gory imagery. The story develops with a somewhat slower pace, but once the serious action starts happening, the pacing really picks up – almost relentlessly so. There is also a strange mix of humour, one extremely awkward scene with Red Cross charity volunteers being a highlight.
My one criticism of this film would be the fairly cliché twist ending, which could be considered predictable although I didn’t pick it from the beginning. Even so, as someone who doesn’t enjoy a lot of horror films, I would definitely suggest watching Goodnight Mommy. It has just the right balance between paying homage to general horror themes, and paving its own way in terms of narrative – aside from the cliché twist that I didn’t see coming. Additionally, with its absolutely beautiful direction and cinematography, it walks a very delicate balance between wanting to watch the film’s visual beauty, yet feeling totally repelled by some of the horror content on screen. Highly recommended.
Watch the trailer here.