Blogtober Viewing 2020: Mommy Issues in Stereo

Blogtoberfest viewing – the good, the bad, the terrifying — has commenced, beginning this year with a film that’s been languishing in my Netflix queue for too long: the German-language horror-thriller Goodnight Mommy, co-written and directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz.

Relying on three main characters, Goodnight Mommy opens in summer, as a woman returns home to her twin boys with her face swathed in bandages. The boys think she’s not acting the same as she did before she went to the hospital; there’s a good amount of back-and-forth about this — “Maybe she’s just feeling off?” “Maybe she’s an alien? “Maybe she’s born with it?” — but no real resolution comes quickly.

I was surprised to see six years have already passed since Goodnight Mommy hit the theaters, originally as Ich Seh, Ich Seh (I See, I See); I had it in my head that it was released in the last three or so. But it’s definitely not dated, and in fact holds together quite well in a mid-pandemic viewing climate.

Other factors Goodnight Mommy has going for it: standard-issue creepy twins. Ambiguous surgical procedures. A slow burn that goes into hyper-speed in the third act. What I think are Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. Some really strong-swimming red herrings, and two Red Cross volunteers for good measure.

It also had a killer trailer, one that Mtv posited was the ‘scariest ever’ at one point, and I can’t disagree. It carries the same chaotic-but-sterile feel as the entire film, spliced together with some key phrases and a little bit of healthy misdirect (maybe).

It’s also important to note that, with all of the the head-fake twists and turns, metaphor-heavy imagery and a stark, secluded European home as a backdrop, this is not a movie that starts and ends as a psychological thriller. Much of the terror is concocted in the viewer’s mind, but plenty is also served on a nauseating, ergononic platter; strong minds with weak stomachs beware.

A few more convo-starters for your next weird cocktail party:

Goodnight Mommy had no script when it was filmed; one was written ‘eventually,’ and the child-actors never saw it. All of the actors are almost entirely improvising.

• It won the European Film Award for Best Cinematographer, the Fangoria Award for Best Foreign Film, and the Golden Trailer Award for Best Foreign Horror Trailer, in addition to being named the Austrian bid to the Oscars for Best Foreign Film in 2015.

• Franz and Fiala’s follow-up to Goodnight Mommy is The Lodge, released in 2019 and starring Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road, Elvis’ granddaughter).

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