The Austrian horror pic Goodnight Mommy gained some fairly significant attention stateside due to its hauntingly effective and hair raising trailer. The trailer is a work of art. The film itself? Well, it’s not without its merits for genre lovers. And it isn’t without its flaws.
Mommy takes place almost entirely at a remote lake house in Austria where the “Mommy” (Susanne Wuest) has just returned back after cosmetic surgery to her face. This leaves her with heavy bandages around her dome that are quite creepy. She is mother to twin 10 year old boys (real life twins Elias and Lukas Schwarz). Upon her return from her mysterious operation, they immediately notice that something seems off with her. She’s more temperamental. It gets to the point where the boys become convinced that Mommy is not Mommy at all and this sets a course from some disturbing set pieces and seriously questionable parenting.
Horror aficionados will likely eat up the sequences involving giant roaches and gut churning uses for Super Glue. However, this just applies to the art house crowd. Goodnight Mommy is by no means mainstream and I suspect many a casual genre fan will be let down. For starters, this is not to be judged by its considerably better trailer. Second, while the arty crowd may not mind the “twist” involved that can perhaps purposely be seen from a mile away, it hindered the process for me.
It’s a nice touch having real life twins play the scared youngsters here and the Schwarz brothers work well together. Wuest capably balances her complex role which alternates between being terrifying and being terrified. The production design with its off kilter and dispassionate home setting is first rate.
All in all, a jaw dropping moment here and there in Goodnight Mommy can’t really overcome the general obviousness of it all. I’ll give directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala credit for showing some promise to build on, but this movie will be remembered best for its magnificent preview watched by millions on YouTube and not the final product.
**1/2 (out of four)