Goodnight Mommy Blu-ray Review
The boys run through the cornfields, brushing past thousands of stalks, all in the name of hide and go seek. When that’s over, they go to the forest somewhere off the property and continue the game in a dark tunnel. That afternoon, the game goes to the lake.
These are boys with tremendous daring and imagination. They, Elias and Lukas (Elias and Lukas Schwarz, actual brothers whose only screen credit thus far is this film), have not seen their mother for some time, since she has been away getting surgery on her face. When they arrive, they find their mother (Susanne Wuest, Götz Spielmann’s ANTARES, the web series JUDAS GOAT) in a room, pulling the blinds to shield the interior from the sun. Her face is bandaged so only her eyes and mouth are visible.
The children are happy to see their mother and don’t see her bandages as grotesque or unusual. She is, after all, their mother, as comfortingly confirmed in a living room game where she must determine what is written on her head: “Am I an animal?” No. “Am I a thing?” No. “Am I a person?” Yes. What does become unusual is her behavior, making certain demands that are out of character. With this, Elias and Lukas begin to wonder if that person under the wrap is indeed their mother, and so, too, does the audience.
GOODNIGHT MOMMY (ICH SEH, ICH SEH in its native German, which translates to I SEE, I SEE) begins with a popular lullaby, but quickly ensures that there will be no ease to be had. Each corner of the house and each plot of the property seem to suggest that dangerous secrets are to be found. Soon, much is revealed not just about the woman behind the bandages, but also the twins (who, when featured in horror movies, don’t exactly tend to be the most joyous humans; see: THE SHINING, BASKET CASE, SISTERS, etc.), turning the viewers’ predictions askew.
GOODNIGHT MOMMY (which was Austria’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar last year) is wonderfully developed by the writing/directing team of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, making their feature-length debuts behind the camera here. Franz and Fiala construct characters, locations and scenarios that are designed to make the viewer shiver, squirm and sometimes look away from the screen. Some of the images shock (is a child holding scissors ever going to end safely?), but this is not a horror film that is lazy. There is no reliance on visual cheats or lazy music cues (the score, by Olga Neuwirth, is barely there), but rather an insistence to develop the atmosphere for maximum effect.
GOODNIGHT MOMMY is one of those entries in the genre that is better suggested to those who can appreciate it, those who can tolerate pacing and development and also appreciate intelligent twists over inane tricks. It might be the most fitting film to recommend to serious horror fans this year.
Video: 2.39:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details and textures are strong overall, while black levels are deep and colors are generally healthy.
Audio: German DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English. Dialogue is clean, but it’s the sound effects and ambience that add greatly to the eerie, isolated atmosphere of the film.
A Conversation with Filmmakers Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala (12:48): The writers/directors of GOODNIGHT MOMMY discuss the story, inspirations and expectations.