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John’s Horror Corner: Goodnight Mommy (2022), a remake of the 2014 Austrian story of a mother scorned by her children’s distrust.

October 24, 2022

MY CALL:  A solid atmospheric horror. This review may not read as positively as my experience watching it. But that is because I find the not-so-old original to be the better of the two, and see little merit to having remade it at all. Still, this is a good film that specializes in distrust and tension.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Goodnight MommyWell, I’d recommend (and also prefer) the original Goodnight Mommy (2014). For more family therapy horror, consider Hatching (2022; aka Pahanhautoja), The Twin (2022), Relic (2020), The Dark and the Wicked (2020), The Lodge (2019), Hereditary (2018), Pyewacket (2017), The Witch (2016), Goodnight Mommy (2014), The Babadook (2014), The Uninvited (2009), The Good Son (1993), Pet Sematary (1989) and The Stepfather (1987).

Twin preteens Lukas (Nicholas Crovetti; Big Little Lies) and Elias (Cameron Crovetti; The Boys, The Grey Man) arrive to stay with their mother (Naomi Watts; The Ring 1-2, Dream House, Funny Games), who is recovering from what rather seems to be some elaborate cosmetic and/or reconstructive surgery. Unaware of this upon their arrival, young Lukas and Elias are taken aback by her full-head gauzy appearance.

For her recovery, mother has demanded some rules to keep things peaceful and restful. But among her rules were some curious limitations, like not being allowed in mother’s room or the barn. Mother is quick to scold the boys for violating her rules, and later Elias hears mother on the phone discussing something disturbing that involves him. The boys sense something suspicious is going on, and as the audience we feel that tension. Worse still, they become terrified of her, and their relationship spirals out of control.

The unnerving anxiety stems from the boys’ strengthening assumption that the woman behind the masking gauze is, in fact, not their mother at all. And they test their would-be imposter in more ways than one, some ways more subtle than others. You may find yourself rooting for the boys to prove their dark hypothesis true, while reeling at the undeniably uncomfortable sympathy one must feel for the woman who very well may be their scorned and so readily discarded mother.

An issue I have with this remake is the same as that of the original. I fear that a keen viewer (even without seeing the original) will swiftly predict what’s wrong (i.e., the big twist, the mystery, etc.) in less than 10 minutes of screen time. I could spiral into an essay on ways this movie’s twist can be accomplished more effectively, but any vague explanation or even the movies to which I’d compare it would surely give away the thinly veiled mystery. And make no mistake, I’m not saying everyone will see through it as I did. In fact, if you don’t, you’d likely enjoy the movie even more. And I did enjoy watching this. Yet another issue I have is that, while not bad, I find the ending of this remake inferior—whereas the original finale cut me deeply, this remake’s ending falls flat. It’s as if they decided the original was too intense, so they watered it down… a lot.

Despite all my criticism, overall this was an enjoyable watch and a well-made film. It somewhat pains me that this was only remade to appease those who don’t care for the subtitles of the superior original film. Yet I must admit that reading subtitles during a more plotty horror-drama can take the viewer out of the experience significantly, and dubbing can likewise seem jarringly off-kilter. But still, it was generally well-produced and well-acted.

Moreover the atmosphere was steadily tense. And a film like this is all about that uneasy atmosphere. I’d consider this a strong success for director Matt Sobel (Brand New Cherry Flavor).

REMAKE/REIMAGINING/REBOOT SIDEBAR: Oddly enough, this is Naomi Watts’ third horror remake—after The Ring (2002) and Funny Games (2007).
For more horror remakes, I strongly favor the following: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), The Blob (1988), The Mummy (1999), The Ring (2002), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Dawn of the Dead (2004), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Mirrors (2008), Friday the 13th (2009), Piranha 3D (2010), Let Me In (2010), Evil Dead (2013), Carrie (2013), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), It (2017), Suspiria (2018) and Child’s Play (2019).

Those to avoid include Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), Japanese Hell (1999), War of the Worlds (2005), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), Prom Night (2008), Night of the Demons (2009), Sorority Row (2009), Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013), Poltergeist (2015), Martyrs (2015), Cabin Fever (2016), Unhinged (2017), The Mummy (2017) and Wrong Turn (2021).

I’m on the fence about An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), The Grudge (2004), Pulse (2006), Halloween (2007), The Uninvited (2009), It’s Alive (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Fright Night (2011), The Thing (2011; a prequel/requel/remake), Maniac (2012), Rabid (2019), Pet Sematary (2019), Castle Freak (2020) and Slumber Party Massacre (2021), which range from bad to so-so (when judged as remakes) but still are entertaining movies on their own.

For what it’s worth, I also enjoyed the recent “requels” of Scream (2022) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022).


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