Commentary by Collin Stroup
A good filmmaker knows what audience they are speaking to. In the case of Goodnight Mommy, it’s a pretty specific audience and not necessarily the one they marketed to. But that might be the brilliance of the whole thing. While the film’s trailer portrayed a surreal, taught thriller, what we get is something quite different; bizarre and surreal at times, but the fears and tension become all too real leading the audience to realize they’ve been duped.
Goodnight Mommy follows two twin boys, Lukas and Elias (Lukas and Elias Shwarz respectively) who seem to run freely about their home without supervision. Their mother returns from facial cosmetic surgery and the boys begin to notice things are very different with her. It’s very clear what your expectations are in this film, especially if you latched on to the advertising for this movie, but that’s part of the films clever trick; taking your expectations and flipping them on their head.
The imagery is beautiful and the music noticeably absent throughout, leaving the stark sounds of reality to carry the tension and for the most part it works. With the exception of a few middle bits grinding the pace down a bit too much, the movie always manages to maintain its sense of unease. The acting is really what sells it though. Despite the language barrier, this being an Austrian film, the emotions and clarity of the characters come through wonderfully.
Much like Funny Games or Oldboy, many scenes, as terrifically acted or shot as they are, are extremely unpleasant to watch. This movie has a degree of predictability about it, but it never hinges on its reveals, instead dragging you towards the inevitable horror and letting you know there is nothing you can do about it. Goodnight Mommy is not a movie to back down, and if you can endure the horrific things it has to show, it’ll keep you on edge till the very end.