SFIFF '15 I'm getting pretty sick of horror films that are disguised as dramas. I suppose they want to sell tickets to more than just horror fans, but I don't like being tricked into seeing a horror film. SFFS invoked producer Ulrich Seidl as an "influence" and called it a "genre" film. I guess now I know that "genre" means "horror". I really like Seidl's neo-documentary dramas, I hope he isn't going into horror now.
The progression of violence, the bond between two brothers turning into something appalling while growing fonder into complicity. It reminded me a lot of The Uninvited (2009). It's brilliant. And SO not what you expect it to be.
There's nothing remarkable about "Goodnight Mommy's" narrative. And yet the filmmakers have created a psychological horror film that is rich with subtext and atmosphere. Visually, the duo combine the sterile quality of Michael Haneke with Gus Van Sant's eye for young people. The most startling moments of this film feel lifted right from the black pool of our subconscious, which is precisely what the best horror does.
While I can't deny the gut impact of the disquieting 3rd act, the film trades trenchant familial psychodrama for shock and surprise, which, though effective, makes the rest of the film feel impotent.
It does create an excellently creepy atmosphere, though, making great use of darkness: not just shadows, but total blackness in certain areas of the screen.
I like nasty. I like endearingly perverse. I liked Goodnight Mommy when t'was parceling this stuff out in a way that I found to operate in a realm not entirely divorced from credibility (although it never actually does quite occupy such a realm). There are things in here which touch on real, felt experience. There is, alas, a twist. It essentially bankrupts the whole enterprise, though traction was already lost.
Goodnight Mommy is all about it's ending. Yet, anyone who pays attention and knows their genre cliches-- not to mention that has seen 1972's The Other-- won't be satisfied, as the film is much too obvious about where it's going. With that said, the twist is also unneeded, as it doesn't really add depth or dimension to the character. While the torture may be mildly disturbing, the rest is dry and repetitive.
Those expecting a straight horror film that follows genre conventions would do well to look elsewhere for the waters run a touch deeper here. Producer Ulrich Seidl and directors Fiala and Franz instead give us a film about the fragility of familial structure when the norms of relationships are tested by trauma and psychosis. Eerie and suspenseful at times with a third act twist that works even if it feels engineered.
I liked it, it messes with your nerves by changing the perspective of who is the victim and the perpetrator and creates an eerie atmosphere that draws you in in an effective way. There are some amazing scenes and every frame is put together carefully. I certainly did not see that twist coming, but it certainly made me want to watch it all over again. Bold move from Austria to submit this as their Oscar contender.