“You know what your website needs?” I hear these words all the time. People offering suggestions for genres, or movies to review. I like suggestions, so this is great. “Your website needs more horror films from other countries.” Well, that is a very specific request. But let’s do it.
Now the person who requested that most likely meant something Asian. They have a lot of crazy scary horror films, if I am to believe my friends. Since I am afraid of scary things, I never really jumped into that subset. So instead, let’s take it slow and dive into European Horror. Specifically, Austrian.
Oh hey, look at that. Austria’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film in the next Oscars is actually a horror movie! That means it is either really good, or Austrian cinema is really lacking.
That is why I am looking at Goodnight Mommy, or, Ich Seh, Ich Seh (which of course does not mean Goodnight Mommy in German). I assume the name change in English is because they didn’t want their film compared to Foghorn Leghorn.
“Ah see, I see, sons, why are you wearing those masks?” – Foghorn Leghorn playing the mother.
Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) and Elias (Elias Schwarz) are twins, let’s say 11, living in a secluded and rich house in the Austrian countryside. There are farms nearby, woods, a lake, some caves, everything they could want. And eventually their mom (Susanne Wuest) comes home! Yay!
Or…or does she? Their mom was involved in some sort of accident. She had a lot of surgery on her face. So her face is wrapped up in bandages, with just her eyes and mouth visible. But the boys believe that something is different. Their mom is meaner and more distant. She has created a lot of rules that keep the boys mostly in home or right in the yard.
She doesn’t take them to town. She orders in food so they can just be alone for a good long time while she heals. They are alone and they are pretty certain that the lady is not their mother under the bandages. But with a dad out of the picture and no real ability to talk to anyone, what are a couple of kids supposed to do?
Also featuring Hans Escher as a priest and Elfriede Schatz and Karl Purker as two Red Cross workers.
“Why the hell aren’t you showing any faces in these pictures?” – You, the reader.
On the comment card after the film, I wrote “I am completely unsettled.” That wasn’t descriptive enough though. I should have also mentioned that my jimmies were in fact rustled as well. In all honesty, the best way to describe my emotions after the film can probably only be described as an emoji, but I don’t use those and I don’t want to find the appropriate one.
This is not a typical horror. It isn’t full of scares throughout, but a good chunk of the film is instead just a bit eerie. The directors spend a lot of time building the mood before things really start to hit the fan. There are glimpses of madness, but they are in short bursts, or told through dreams, letting the creepiness build.
But the in the entire third act, we reach the level of things you come to expect from the drama, and it pays off wonderfully.
Two aspects of this movie I really enjoyed. One, it is a mystery of sorts technically. But the mystery doesn’t seem to be that important. I imagine most people will “figure it out” before they finally reveal what is going on, but that doesn’t take away from the film. Once I had my guess, I enjoyed watching the film to look for hints or clues to see if what I thought was right. It was still a good experience.
Two, the directors used a lot of silence which is a lacking sound from most modern horrors. Silence is a wonderful tool that can be used to make a situation far more tense. And I don’t mean “Silence, followed by loud scary noise to make you jump!”. No, just silence to make the gross or scary a bit more realistic and thus a bit more darker.
I don’t want to see Goodnight Mommy again. My body couldn’t take it. I hope some of the more graphic scenes eventually leave my brain completely because of how brutal they were. Goodnight Mommy has to be a good horror film, because it scared me into wanting to see it a second time.
4 out of 4.