Goodnight Mommy review: Horror has just birthed some new terrifying twins

Preferring unease to jump-scares and psychosis to spooks, this astute psychological horror is an example of the genre at its very best

Mother fearest... the brilliantly ambiguous Susanne Wuest in Goodnight Mommy

Film Title: Goodnight Mommy

Director: Veronika Franz , Severin Fiala

Starring: Susanne Wuest, Elias Schwarz

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 100 min

Fri, Mar 4, 2016, 16:40

   

Move over “forever and ever” corridor siblings in The Shining. Take a hike, Jeremy Irons’ scary gynaecologist brothers in Dead Ringers. The movieverse has just birthed some new terrifying twins.

It’s summer and 10-year- olds Lukas and Elias (brothers Lukas and Elias Schwarz, excellent) are enjoying rough-and-tumble adventures through the countryside that surrounds their secluded, modernist Austrian home.

But when their mother (the brilliantly ambiguous Susanne Wuest), a daytime TV presenter returns from an unspecified surgical procedure, the boys soon sense that something is amiss.

Why does mommy now sleep all day and insist on keeping the blinds drawn? Why does she lash out over minor transgressions and play favourites with Elias? The boys soon suspect that the woman obscured by facial bandages is not their mother but an imposter. Can she be persuaded to tell the truth with restraints, a magnifying glass and superglue?

Goodnight Mommy is the first psychological-horror from writer-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, respectively the partner and nephew of producer Ulrich Seidl, the arthouse auteur behind such austere classics as Import/Export and The Paradise.

It is, accordingly, as classy as the genre gets, preferring unease to jump-scares, and psychosis to spooks. Martin Gschlacht’s stark cinematography adds to an overall sense of dread, and the viewer is often reminded of the similarly chilly terrain explored by the youngsters in Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and Caché.

Those looking for the next Wishmaster may well cry foul, or say that this is a horror movie for those who don’t like horror movies. We say this is what the genre, at its best, can be.