|Image courtesy of Radius TWC.|
Although I'm a great admirer of the work of Michael Haneke, the filmmaker's most notorious movie - "Funny Games" - is among my least favorite of his pictures. The oeuvre of another Austrian director Ulrich Seidl, is more of a mixed bag in my opinion. What both filmmakers' bodies of work have in common is that they are stark, bleak and often disturbing.
So, imagine a horror film utilizing those attributes, especially "Funny Games," and you sort of have an idea of what to expect from "Goodnight Mommy," a picture that starts out creepy before becoming unpleasantly nasty. It also doesn't help that the film's twist can be spotted a mile away. If you've seen a movie or two before, you'll likely figure it out within the first 10 minutes.
The movie, which is directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, is effective enough, but it left me cold and its casual sadism became too much as it increasingly takes over the proceedings during the final half-hour.
In the film, two boys are left alone at an isolated house during the summer. Suddenly, their mother returns following some sort of operation that has left her with bandages wrapped entirely around her head, obscuring her face. The two boys think that something is off about their mom and increasingly begin to smell an impostor. But are they correct or just paranoid?
The film's best moments are near the beginning as the twins wander around the vast expanse surrounding their home, playing in corn fields and walking through creepy wooded areas. "Goodnight Mommy" is rich on atmosphere and if the filmmakers had relied on this attribute alone, it could have resulted in something richer than what we ultimately get.
But as the boys begin to become more and more disturbed by their mother's presence - especially after she takes off the bandages - things take a grim turn. The twins decide to try to torture the woman they do not believe is their mother into some sort of confession as to where their actual mother happens to be. As the film progresses, the mother figure becomes less sinister and the boys more so.
This is the type of film where I can sort of see where the filmmakers are heading and what they're aiming for, even when the picture eventually falls apart. Fiara and Franz display some talent behind the camera, so it's a pity that the film devolves into gory cliches as it reaches its denouement.
"Goodnight Mommy" is not a bad film, but it's also not the type that I can particularly recommend, especially since there have been some truly unique horror movies - such as "It Follows" and "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" - during the past year.