Review: “Goodnight Mommy” delivers a solid psychological scarefest


Lukas and Elias Schwarz in GOODNIGHT MOMMY

Despite some pacing issues and some predictable plot twists, “Goodnight Mommy” still manages to be unsettling and shockingly violent.

Shot and produced in Austria, “Goodnight Mommy” (originally titled “Ich she, Ich she”) tells the story of a widowed mother and her twin boys who move to a secluded house in the country. The mother recently underwent face changing cosmetic surgery and tells the boys to respect her privacy and let her rest. The boys are convinced, however, that the person underneath the bandages is not their mother and are determined to find out what happened to her.

The 99 minute film does not have much more of plot outside of that, but instead features a sense of dread that hangs over every minute and frame. Directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz do an excellent job of establishing the film’s tone right away and never veering away from it. Other horror films might be tempted to throw in jump scares or unnecessary gore, but “Goodnight Mommy” is subtler with its horror elements and is more of a psychological scarefest.

That being said, there are pacing issues throughout the film. Some scenes start to repeat and not much happens in the second act of the film other than the boys trying to find out what possibly could have happened to their mother. This is not a terrible problem because it is all leading to the grandiose of a finale the directors have been carefully setting up.

The third act of the film is by far the strongest act, although it has one glaring problem. After a lot of tension and atmosphere building, the filmmakers let it all loose in what is a violent, nerve wrecking, and tense filled final 20 minutes. Some might see it as barbaric or too much, but after sitting through some tame stretches, it was necessary to finally terrify the audience.

One issue I had with the film overall was its major plot twist. I will not spoil it here, but it is something that seemed to be too obvious and telegraphed throughout the film. It disappointed me that the filmmakers did not have one more trick up their sleeves, but instead went with the obvious twist that has been seen in countless movies.

Overall, “Goodnight Mommy” is a very well made psychological horror movie with a killer of an ending, not counting the obvious twist. It could have been scarier and more action packed, but there are plenty of other films that do that and most of them end up being subpar. It might not be the best horror movie of the year (that goes to “It Follows”), but it is certainly worth seeking out if you are in the mood for a good psychological scare.