GOODNIGHT MOMMY (2015) – Review

goodnight-mommy

Anyone who is the tiniest bit tuned into the horror scene will, by now, have heard of Severin Fiala and Veronica Franz’s German horror film GOODNIGHT MOMMY. For all the buzz, the film kept its secrets well – we only knew that it dealt with creepy kids and a creepier mother, and that the ending was horrifying. Now, it has hit select theaters, and I was finally able to uncover its secrets. The film that unfolded was, to say the least, every bit as horrifying for me as the hype suggested.

For those who don’t know, “Goodnight Mommy” tells the story of two twin boys whose mother comes home from a facial reconstruction surgery… but is she really their mother? That’s what they try to discover over the next 100 minutes, forcing the audience to watch their endeavours to understand who has come to their home. I won’t give anything more than that away, plot-wise, because it’s best to go blind into this one. Let’s just say that I spent the last fifteen minutes grabbing my face in disbelief.

This film is gorgeously constructed. It paces itself with the patience of a hunting panther, slowly creeping toward its conclusion and never allowing the audience a moment’s respite from the tension. A lesson can be taken from here for other filmmakers – Fiala and Franz follow Hitchcock’s bomb-under-the-table rule of tension amazingly well, refusing to resolve the suspense with a shock or an outburst of violence until they’re damn well ready to do so. Because of this, the audience is constantly on edge, waiting for something awful to happen. And it does – all the more awful because of the tension that has constricted you. (I wish I could outline some of the best scenes here, but that would be a heinous betrayal of future audiences.)

From a purely cinematic perspective, this film was a masterwork as well – the imagery is both beautiful and eerie, with sublime shots of the primal forest contrasted with a shadowy, too-modern house in which the titular, bandaged Mommy lurks like an apparition. The children, for that matter, also lurk and creep. The scenes have an almost morbidly languid atmosphere around them – everyone is hushed and waiting. As Variety’s review of the film suggests, none of the characters behave as they seem they should. It’s a grotesque film in the most classic sense, where everything is just slightly off-kilter… or not so slightly. The events seem spectral, as if playing years after they occurred, haunting the audience with their recurring nightmare.

The attention to atmosphere and imagery elevates the film from what could have been a piece of nasty, but forgettable, horror. It is tautly and ingeniously constructed, tension always rising and scenes increasing slowly in their bizarre qualities. But there is also a deep-rooted theme – investigating the ever-sensitive and painful world of mothers and children – from which all the horror is drawn. By sealing itself within that theme, the film becomes all the more disturbing and profound. It is about things that every single person knows, and what happens on screen is something that many people must dread.

I can’t say much more without ruining the surprise – this isn’t a film that banks on a twist, but it is best to know as little of the plot as possible, due to the sheer impact of the events. It’s an absolute must for horror fans, and cinema fans in general, for its amazing knowledge of the craft. But be warned – if it does get you, it will not let you forget it.

“Goodnight Mommy” is playing in select theaters now, but let’s hope it gets a wider release. It’s a brilliant genre work and deserves all the attention it can get – though it will certainly polarize.

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One Response to “GOODNIGHT MOMMY (2015) – Review”

  1. I agree. Best horror movie of 2015.

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