Goodnight Mommy (2014) **
D: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
C: Susanne Wuest, Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz, Hans Escher, Elfriede Schatz, Karl Purker
Plot Synopsis: Twin boys move to a new home with their mother after she has face changing cosmetic surgery, but under her bandages is someone the children don't recognize.
Review: On the surface, there's a lot to like about Goodnight Mommy. It's well photographed. The principal setting is striking. The set decoration is stylish. The three leads do what's required of them in a proficient manner. Even less noticeable things such as the costuming POP on screen. Writer / Director Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz know how to make a good horror film, but writing one is a different matter.
In the film, we meet twin brothers. They've been left to their own devices in an isolated, country setting. Their mom has undergone facial reconstruction surgery and often wants to sleep or keep to herself. She's also seems a lot stricter. As this scenario unfolds, the boys become convinced that this woman isn't their mother, but a doppelganger.
Goodnight Mommy does a credible of creating this scenario. We don't know who exactly to believe, but after all this set-up, there's no where left to go. The kids try to escape, but are returned back to their home. The brothers, holding steadfast to this belief that this woman isn't their mom, tie her up and try to torture her into confessing. Mom (or this person attempting to be their mother) tries to escape, but is unsuccessful. So the brother's torture her even more. The film gets bogged down with repeated scenes of torture.
As all of this was happening, a lot of questions came to mind. Why are the kids in this isolated country setting? Where is their father? Why has mom undergone facial reconstruction surgery? If mom has undergone a major surgical procedure, why isn't anyone around to help? What has led to the mom and brothers acting the way that they do? Eventually, these questions are answered, but not until the last few minutes in a final reveal type moment.
The problem with final reveals like this are that the film becomes about the final reveal. Sure, when the final reveal happens, the audience will go awwww....., but outside of that reveal, the film isn't going to connect with those viewing it. Watching characters, their backstory, motivations & how they develop on screen are what leaves a lasting impression.
The final reveal also happens to be one of those reveals that renders everything else pointless. If the audience sympathizes more with the twin brothers, make the mom a doppelganger. If the audience sympathizes more with the mom, make it so the brothers are crazy. Every clue that's been laid out supports either resolution.
Endings like this are of the lowest kind. Think about it. If you take away the pretty photography & the art direction, what's there really left? [R] 99 minutes.
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