If you’re at all squeamish, avoid Veronika Franz’ 2014 horror attempt “Goodnight Mommy” the way someone fearful of flying will sooner drive a thousand miles than book a flight.
We’ll touch on what effectively was the ruination of the film in a bit. For starters, the first half of the movie is one filled with suspense and intrigue, more a thriller than a standard horror picture, but suspenseful nonetheless.
Elias and Lukas are nine-years-old, and as close as one would expect from a pair that are not only brothers but identical twins. The casting of real life twin brothers Elias and Lukas Schwarz was the right thing to do. The pair perform well given their young ages, and have an unmatched and seemingly instinctive comradery that can only come from real womb sharing siblings.
The boys’ mother (Susanne Wuest) returns home from the hospital after an unexplained reconstructive surgery that has left her face swathed in bandages; completely covered save for her eyes and mouth. Her unusual behaviors and senseless set of new rules bring the boys to the conclusion that their real mother has been replaced by an evil impostor.
Veronika Franz takes a really interesting premise, like something from an old ‘Twilight Zone’ episode, and pulls off a solid thriller for the first half of the story. Its an interesting dilemma to have when the terror comes in the form of a loving mother in lieu of a repulsive monster, and the creep factor of a mysterious woman, speaking and yelling at the boys from behind a mummified mask is chilling to say the least.
The house is secluded in its rural setting, equipped with the standard ancient graveyard and menacing cornfield that the boys play in are nearby. We watch in suspense as Elias and Lukas continue dealing with their mother and her odd behavior and are left pondering; is she really an impostor? If so, who and why? Are the boys just letting their imaginations run wild?
The first half of “Goodnight Mommy” is very interesting. I was even able to stomach the subtitles as the dialogue isn’t overly heavy and the boys play such natural parts its almost instinctive to watch. But the story takes a strange and unappealing turn midway through.
Not to give anything away, but scenes quickly go from suspense thriller to downright disgust with giant roaches that the boys have as pets (for some reason), animal cruelty, and a series of gratuitous and stomach turning torture sequences.
What begins as a promising horror tale diverts to an appeal to the lowest form of taste, and ruins what was an otherwise solid effort.
The movie does have a good twist ending, one that astute observers (myself included) can pick up on quickly, but either way completes the story portion on a positive side.
In the end, “Goodnight Mommy” isn’t scary, and its suspenseful tones set early on are lost when the torture porn begins. Anything positive falls victim to the curse of lazy writing.
by – Matt DeCristo