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Goodnight Mommy: A Glossy Horror Film That Prefers Style Over Substance

January 28, 2016


Goodnight Mommy movie poster


Goodnight Mommy is beautifully filmed horror movie that prefers looking awesome over offering anything that makes the violence redeemable. It is empty calories disguised as art house cinema and is getting a lot of attention because Austria submitted it as their Best Foreign Language  entry for the Academy Awards. Watching Goodnight Mommy felt like slow walk into a spiked wall that is 200 yards directly in front of you. You see the spiked wall off in the distance so there is no surprise as you inch closer and closer.  I knew exactly where Goodnight Mommy was going and despite all the fantastic cinematography and new horror elements it felt familiar.

Normally, I am down for intelligent and critically loved horror but nothing in this film worked for me. It felt like a midnight film met a pretentious (and talented) film student and formed a hybrid that tried to be clever. It bums met out that it has been overshadowing gems like Spring, Creep and Housebound because they are all much more ambitious and earnest.  Over the last two years I’ve written copious amounts about the indie horror boom and loved movies like Bone Tomahawk, Under the Skin and The Babadook. Those movies have a heart and soul and presented their indie horror ideas with clarity and a lack of pretentiousness.

Goodnight Mommy tells the story of a mother returning to her remote country home after facial reconstruction. She is welcomed by her two kids named Lukas and Elias who spend their days patrolling the countryside and burning cockroaches to death. The mother refuses to acknowledge Lukas and only feeds and talks to Elias. At this point it should become painfully obvious that there is only one kid and I was surprised to learn that people didn’t see the twist coming. I am still amazed because I never pick up on twists and I noticed this twist two minutes in. I actually thought it was so obvious that the real twist would be that Lukas was actually alive and the mom was a total jerk. However, that wasn’t the case we get a bunch of mom torture.

Goodnight Mommy Mom bandages

Poor lady.

I totally understand the cool Austrain vibe and adherence to patience but it all felt too obligatory. If you want to watch a movie about body dismemberment I recommend the film Cheap Thrills. It is a ballsy and tough little film about escalating dares. The villains keep their mystery and the two participants are likable and actually grow on you. The violence feels warranted because the filmmakers created a movie where you like the people and their motives seem plausible. It doesn’t gloss itself up or feel too cold because the movie has a purpose.

Goodnight Mommy is artificial in almost every aspect and that prevented  me from caring about it. If you are into midnight horror films gussied up in an arthouse veneer you will love Goodnight Mommy. The violence is nasty and the build up is extreme and will most certainly satiate your need to see super glue used creatively.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2016 11:19 am

    Good review. It’s a pretty messed-up movie. But one that constantly kept me interested in just where it was going next.

  2. January 28, 2016 5:02 pm

    I was really anticipating this movie, and it turned out to just be a big let-down. Like you, I saw the twist coming from a million miles away and the final reveal was so similar to that of Thomas Tryon’s spooky novel ‘The Other’ that it just felt all too familiar. Too bad, because I came in with big expectations after seeing a fantastically creepy trailer. Good review, you’re totally on-point. I don’t understand all the hype for this.

    • January 28, 2016 5:07 pm

      Thanks! I’m glad somebody else didn’t buy into the hype. It all felt too easy and glossy.


  1. John’s Horror Corner: Goodnight Mommy (2014), the story of a mother scorned by her children’s distrust…or children scorned by an evil imposter! | Movies, Films & Flix

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