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Goodnight Mommy Movie Review: A Nerve-Wracking Horror Film Without Overindulgent Scares Or Gore

First Posted: Sep 11, 2015 05:00 AM EDT
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The horror genre has long been exploited in America using gratuitous violence and cheap thrills to excite and scare audiences. Filmmakers no longer use suspense tactics that make audiences think and instead prefer to spoon feed everything. In "Goodnight Mommy," Austrian directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz ask audiences to think and watch each frame to see where the film is headed. The result is a frightening movie that will continue to haunt you thereafter.

"Goodnight Mommy" tells the story of twin boys who move to a new home with their mother after she has face-changing cosmetic surgery. However, the sight of their new mother scares them as the children cannot recognize their mother under the bandages.

The movie starts out a bit slow and almost like a fairy tale. It is shot with a lot of sunlight and the filmmakers show beautiful exteriors that don't resemble that of a dark tone one might anticipate in a horror movie. The camera movement is fluid with the use of dollies and still shots. Lukas and Elias are first introduced playing in a field of plants, trees and caves. Life and nature is in the air, until of course the violation of it is introduced in the form of the mother.

When their mother is introduced she is introduced with bandages over her face, and while it is due to a surgery she had, it is extremely spooky and reminiscent to the Halloween mask and the mask from Pedro Almodovar's "The Skin I Live In." It is a rather paradoxical portrayal as the giver of life has artificially altered her look to the point that her own sons cannot see her as their mother. Slowly the horror comes to fore. Initially, the mother is shown playing games with her sons and either locked in her room or reprimanding her sons for their bad behavior. The filmmakers repeat these types of sequences but each time they becomes more intense and more violent. Each time, Lukas and Elias question where their mom is and this infuriates her all the more.

This leads the children to start torturing her in the most gruesome of manners and in ways that will not be revealed in this review. As the intensity of the film starts to increase, the directors choose to use the handheld and dark home interiors to create an off-putting tone and end the fairy tale of its first half.

Part of the genius of the film is the use of sets. At one point there is a cave of skeletons which is accentuated by the crackling sounds of the bones that create an eerie tone. The house is filled with artwork that is blurred in black and set on the walls. These images are predominant in the film and it almost feels as if they are glaring at the audience.

The walls in the house are also painted blue and the textures of the house are crystalline which contrasts to the outside world and the happier environment that the children are first seen in.

The use of sound is also frightening. Rather than pounding a score and telling the audience when to scream and when something bad is about to happen, the music is limited to few sequences. Instead, the audience is left with natural sounds of wind, steps, doors creaking and others. This allows for tension and for even more gut-wrenching sequences that are unexpected.

For those looking for an interesting reveal at the end, the filmmakers have also ensured to have an unexpected twist, which will only reinforce the horror of the film. And for those looking for blood and guts, there is plenty of that. However, unlike torture porn, which began with "Hostel" and "Saw," this film is tasteful in its torture (if one can even say such a thing). However, in many ways these sequences are harder to watch as they are more visceral and real than any film America has produced in this genre.

For audiences looking for a true horror film, this will not disappoint. For those looking for more than a scream, this will also prove satisfying and unforgettable. However, if you want cheap thrills, "The Visit" will prove to be a better option.

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