Goodnight Mommy Blu-ray Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Blu-ray released by Anchor Bay
Written and directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz
2015, 99 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray and DVD released on December 1st, 2015
Susanne Wuest as The Mother
Elias Schwarz as Elias
Lukas Schwarz as Lukas
When I first saw the trailer for Goodnight Mommy, I immediately decided to not just try to forget what I had just watched, but also make an attempt to avoid reading or viewing anything about this film until I watched it. I wanted to go into it completely blind, and with the exception of the poster and editing the majority of Ted's review (I didn't even edit the spoil warning part, Dan handled that for me), I was successful. I was able to go into this movie more or less blind. And boy I'm glad I did.
Goodnight Mommy is one of those wonderful types of movies that thrusts you right into a middle of a story with no explanation of what's going on, instead opting to slowly feed you information, bit by bit, until you are caught up. In this case the film opens with two young twins, Elias and Lukas, doing something you never see kids doing anymore – playing outside without a helicopter parent within five feet (that's how you know the film is foreign, Austrian to be exact). Apparently these boys were living parent free because soon enough, their mother arrives home from assumedly the hospital as her face is all bandaged up and it's clear something horrific happened to her. She proceeds to tell her sons that there are going to be new rules: no open blinds, no visitors, nothing brought in from outside (including animals!!), and knocking before entering her room. Elias and Lukas are convinced that this stranger is not their mother, and the once happy home is now one of fear and tension.
There are a lot of things that make Goodnight Mommy a rock solid film, starting with the acting. When the story relies on three people to carry it, two of which – Elias and Lukas Schwarz – have never been anything else (according to IMDB), it has the potential to be disastrous. But not here. Directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (both relatively newcomers as well) bring out the best in all involved, creating a movie so filled with tension and suspense, I found myself holding my breath many times throughout the film. What's doubly impressive is the fact that there is very little music in the film, so the tension you feel is real and not a cheat using music cues, not unlike the Cohen brothers' brilliant No Country for Old Men. The fact that Fiala and Franz have no feature film experience between them (again, according to IMDB), this is quite a feat. I'm always a fan of a scoreless suspense because it takes far more talent to make someone feel anxious without music as opposed to telling them when they should feel anxiety with.
I also very much enjoyed the cat and mouse between the mother and her boys throughout the film. The movie is a very slow burn, taking its time to get to an uncomfortable and brutal ending. The beauty of it is there is not a reliable narrator, and nothing anyone does or says can be trusted. Fiala and Franz deftly handle this, making you question everything you see, wondering the motives of every character.
If there is one (small) misstep with Goodnight Mommy, it's the "twist". It's a stretch calling it that because I figured it out long before the reveal and I'm admittedly one of those people who generally never see it coming. To be fair, it seems like the filmmakers weren't trying too hard to hide what they were going for, but the whole thing feels a little pointless and it's definitely something many horror fans have seen before, especially those of Asian cinema.
However, even though the reveal is not as shocking as perhaps intended, it doesn't necessarily hurt the ending like, say, Haute Tension. It just feels a tiny bit forced. Yet it's easy to chalk that up to the inexperience of its directors, and if that's the only thing I can find wrong with the film, kudos to them. This is a phenomenal first outing, and I cannot wait for their sophomore effort.
Video and Audio:
Goodnight Mommy comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p 2.39:1 presentation. The colors are muted, which I assume is a stylistic choice because it's a crisp picture with deep blacks and fine detail.
The German DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack is more than adequate. As mentioned above, there is virtually no music here, and overall the movie is rather a quiet film. However, there are times when the surrounds do kick, such as the rainstorm the kids run through.
All that's offered is a 12-minute conversation with Fiala and Franz. This is an Anchor Bay release, so I'm quite shocked that's all there is from a company once known for their releases that were loaded with special features.