Beginning the psychological horror film “Goodnight Mommy” with a loving mother figure on television singing “Lullaby and Goodnight” launches it off to a very eerie first act. Between that, the cockroaches, and an improvised crossbow, we might have confused this for an Austrian sequel to “The Babadook!”
“Goodnight Mommy” follows twin brothers, Elias and Lukas in their isolated lakeside home. They’re each other’s only friends as they explore through caves, play Marco Polo, and have burping contests. After their mom returns home from plastic surgery and grows harsh and reclusive, they wonder, “Who the hell is this woman?!”
I was happy to find “Goodnight Mommy” in a theater near my house since it seemed impossible to find, and I loved how the beautiful and surreal imagery got under my skin at times (this film has the most unforgettable boxcutter scene). The first half hour is truly suspenseful and unnerving as we wonder why the mother is so cruel to Lukas and Elias, and why she is becomes abruptly abusive. Is it an imposter? Is it attributed to trauma from surgery?
SPOILER ALERT – DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE!
Once the 45-minute mark hits, the film transitions into a torture-based thriller and the suspense is swapped for disgust. It’s hard to root for kids who use dental floss and a magnifying glass as a means of interrogation. We also get a very funny (though out of place) scene involving Red Cross workers collecting donations from the boys.
A redeemable quality of the second act is we get the impression that Elias is the angel going along with the devilish Lukas’s plan for revenge. Elias is conflicted in torturing their “mom” while she and Lukas nearly battle for influence over him.
The final act of “Goodnight Mommy” becomes tragic and slightly predictable when we learn the main twist behind Lukas and the mother, but forgivable due to a wonderfully nightmarish closing shot of the family reunited.
I would recommend “Goodnight Mommy” to horror fans and David Lynch enthusiasts (a lot of “Eraserhead” vibes here), and while I’m disappointed in the second act, I know I’m going to re-watch it for more answers and analysis like I did with “Enemy” and “The Babadook”.
Grade: B (for now)