OSW Review | IFI Horrorthon 2015: Goodnight Mommy (2014)

IFI Horrorthon 2015: Goodnight Mommy (2014)

Yo! Back from Horrorthon, so over the next week or so I'm gonna review the 5 films I saw at the festival. (WrestleMania X7 coming tomorrow night!). Happily surprised to see this film's screening was sold out!

Crew/Production: Written & directed by Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala, starring Susanne Wuest as the mother, and Elias and Lukas Schwarz as the 9-year old twins, Elias and Lukas.

Plot: Austrian drama/horror: A mother of two adolescent twins comes home after getting plastic surgery. However the twins don’t believe it’s their mother.

Thoughts on the film:
• Called “Ich seh, Ich seh” (“I see, I see”, from the German version of “I Spy” – “Ich seh, Ich seh, was du nicht siehst” / “I see, I see, what you don’t see.”)
• Initially I got the impression that it was a dark drama about the children having to come to terms with their parents getting divorced (The father is spoken of in the past tense, the mother getting plastic surgery to make herself feel younger, the kids believing she’s a different person now). The mother makes a point to only acknowledge Elias in conversation, and we’re left to wonder why Lukas has done to get the cold shoulder (“You only made one dinner, where’s Lukas’s?” “You know why”.)
• The three of them are living in a beautiful, isolated holiday home, close to the woods and the beach. The mother is on TV (humorously they play a game of ‘who am I’, the mother asks if she’s someone famous, and the children slowly reply ‘kind of’.)
• They confront the mother about this, who takes it very badly, berating the children and forcing them to repeat lines aloud.
• There is some moments that lead you to believe they are right (like in a dream) but it’s not pressed hard. Instances can be taken either way; the mother needs to recouperate so tells the children to be quiet, let her sleep and not to play inside anymore. After disobeying they are locked in their room without food and pee into cups. You’d expect the film is from the children’s perspective; like the bandages on the mother’s face contort like a halloween mask (and obviously she’s bruised underneath) and when Elias spies on her she notices Elias with a massive bloodshot eye seeing him through a mirror. The house is empty and her steps make an intimidating boom on the stairs.
• It turns into a psychological horror as the children don’t relent and hold her hostage, and increasingly torture her to admit she isn’t their mother.
• I enjoyed how it was shot – brightly lit but still menacing. Cold, but colourful, but not vibrant.
• The film itself is quite slow moving, but it’s interesting, and they spend the time needed to make horrific acts excrutiatingly tense. Sick of her screaming, the kids super-glue her mouth shut. After a period, they decide to cut her mouth back open. It’s as horrible as it sounds!
• I love that it’s the smaller, more intimiate things that get crowds to shudder – not being shot 50 times or stabbed with shears, but more everyday occurances like the mother tripping and hitting her head.
• FYI, there’s female nudity from the mother – a few shots of breasts and ass as she regards herself, and during a dream sequence. It’s not sexualised.
• Hilariously, while she’s being held captive upstairs, Red Cross volunteers come by to solicit donations. They enter the house, looking for anyone around, and despite not hearing anything, they start walking up the stairs! WTF! Taking liberties! They’re a small bit of comic relief between tense scenes – taking money from the children as it’s a nice house; they can afford it 😛
• I must mention that these children do an excellent job acting in this film. Their roles are no easy feat. It’s a full range; it’s during the summer and with no other kids about, they amuse themselves; including taking baths and hitting/punching each other, and maccabre when they do disturbing things to get the truth.
• A small note, the kids play outside during a hailstorm – holy God those are massive pieces of hail! I liked how they showed the children horsing around;
• There is a LOT of slapping in the face in this movie. The percussion of it is sharp and heavy.
• The revelation/twist at the end makes you recount the film and look at dialogue/scenes in a different way, so it was effective, made sense, and is a bonus to consider watching it again.

Spoiler thoughts!

With the house about to be burnt down, the mother tells us the big revelation: Lukas is dead. He died in an accident thanks to his brother Elias; but still sees him in his mind. They answer the dangling carrot from the start of the film – a telling line “you only made one dinner, where’s Lucas’s?” “You know why”. It explains why the mother doesn’t/can’t acknowledge him and she doesn’t plainly state things/talk it out – they’ve been through this, she knows exactly what he means. Also that both kids have a nose bleed in the same exact way. Appreciated the red herrings that of course she’s ‘different’ with her facial surgery, and them finding pictures of her friend who looks and dresses similarly; why Lukas is pushing to not believe the mother, and why she made him repeat the lines not to listen to his brother. It completes the snippets of information we can gather about some incident that happened beforehand – the trauma/grief of losing her son causing her to sell the house.

A cool bit amongst the burning house, you can see a woman (the mother) slowly walking away unnoticed — the final shot of the three (deceased) being reunited and happy, looking into the mirror lasts a long time, it becomes a bit comical! Like when WWE hold the final image in backstage vignettes for far too long.

Overall it’s a lot rougher watch than I anticipated, but it’s well done. Not a fun horror film but it is worth watching. Next up is WrestleMania X-Seven tomorrow night (lol) and after that, “Deathgasm”!


Release Date
October 24, 2015