Ich seh ich she [Goodnight Mommy] (2014)

(On Cable TV, January 2017) I had reasonably high hopes for this Austrian horror film—positive word of mouth had this one pegged as a worthwhile import, to the point where I was looking forward to its appearance on the cable TV movie channel’s schedule. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t measure up—and it may not be a case of hype exceeding the content as much as the film itself being repellent and confused. Something is up from the first few moments of the movie, as two twin boys suspect that something is wrong with their mom as she comes back from surgery with her face bandaged. But, as it turns out, this is a misdirection of what’s really wrong here… For much of its first two thirds, Goodnight Mommy plays as effective and intriguing low-budget horror—three people isolated in a big modern house, slowly suspecting themselves of the worst. The film then veers off in a very different and repellent direction once it turns the tables and makes the twin boys as sadistic villains—it leads to a torture scene that almost unbearable to watch. (And, in a real-life darkly amusing twist, my non-horror-fan wife walking in on the scene with me being unable to defend the film’s rapid descent in bloody torture horror.) Then it’s a rapid sprint to a downbeat ending in which the film obliquely resolves itself, explaining [what] was [what] the whole time and leaving a few mysteries open that I don’t really care to explore. I’ll admit that the torture scene is effective—if only because it plays differently (and more viscerally) than in most horror films that relish goriness: by this time in the movie, the characters have been well established, and what happens between them carries some dramatic weight. On the other hand, too far may be too far, and there’s no law forcing me to like what happens at that time. I certainly can see the resemblance between this and The Babadook: the grief, the perspective-switching, the importance of the mother-and-son dynamic … but there’s no contest in my mind as to which is the vastly superior film … and it’s not Goodnight Mommy.

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