In this Austrian horror story,cinematographer Martin Gschlacht gives viewers a modern and naturalistic setting with glimmerings of objects and locales from classic scary tales. There is “Rosemary’s Baby” ‘s lullabies, “Children Of The Corn” rustles, “The Exorcist” ‘s crucifix, and enough beetles,bones and masks and mummy- looks to ignite the imagination. Filmed in German as ” I See I See” , twin boys star with their mother, or at least who one ten -year -old believes is pretending to be his mother.
A lonely, but modern home sits among a corn field, a forest and a lake. Scenes of rainy play in the moonlight reminded me of Truffaut’s “The Wild Child”. Certainly, these boys have free run and are supervised loosely as they roam ,seek adventures and relax on rafts or jump on elaborate trampolines. Their mother is recuperating from plastic surgery and a divorce. She is a television personality who uses plastic surgery to “keep up appearances”. Her pre-op photos and a video of her dating -service promo are shown to us, but her hiding a snack bar under the covers and pretending sleep to stay-off sharing with her son is more starkly revealing. This is an odd mom even if she turns out not to be an imposter as her boys think.
Susanne Wuest plays Marie-Christine, the unnerving mother. While she entertains with post-it-note games and prepares lots of frozen pizza, she disciplines the children harshly and often locks them in their room. Dark and silent is what her surgeon ordered. The children are rather secondary, until they superglue her lips and later her body to the floor.
The psychological horror comes from Elias and Lukas Schwartz, the starring twins. Dreams and hallucinations confuse us. One scene has Marie-Christine running through the night forest disrobing garment by garment and then contorting in a seizure- like dance akin to ” The Scream”. The boys imagine feeding her beetles while she sleeps and extracting them by cutting an incision in her abdomen. Can one torture one sweetly ? As in magnifying glass burns to the face and salve to later sooth ;water thrown in a mother’s face and then votive candles lighted in prayer ?
Veronica Franz and Severin Fiala are both the writers and directors of “Goodnight Mommy”. Whether they have given us the best Foreign Language Horror film of 2014 I will not say, but without spoiling the surprise or enumerating the hints, I will say that viewers will be kept vigilant.
The lullaby of “God seeing you and loving you ” seemed a bit mocking for my taste. I prefer to see the stress of grief and denial build the movie’s tension. Marie-Christine’s scream of ” I can’t see him” is enough for me to be creeped out totally. Nothing else is really needed in a horror tale.