I caught the wicked horror-thriller, “Goodnight Mommy” at the Music Box Theater last night, and I have to say that the movie was a fiendish little fairy tale. I use that term “fairy tale” in the fullest sense of the term, for this story is a dark fairy tale. That’s how I saw it, and the Teutonic tradition of the doppelgänger looms heavily throughout the story, and I’ll avoid spoiling anything in this review.
It shows a pair of twin boys doing very much “boys will be boys” stuff, diabolically charming the audience with impish acts of boyish mischief that is interrupted by the reappearance of what appears to be their mother, marvelously wrapped up like some mix of the Invisible Man and the Mummy (pun intended! “Mummy Dearest” came into my head while watching it).
Susanne Wuest does a great job as Mother, conveying an eerie, uncanny vibe with her bandaged and spectral presence throughout the story. She’s come back from some serious facial reconstruction surgery, and her behavior is anything but ordinary, leading the boys to wonder if she’s actually their mother or not. She looms and lurks loonily in and out of scenes, that creepy tilt to her head magnified by the bandages she wears for maybe a third of the movie.
The claustrophobia of the house they’re in, with the deliberate use of Venetian blinds to frame up silhouettes throughout, as well as the loneliness of the location, and the tremendous isolation of the boys, conveys a constant sense of unease.
There’s a dry sense of humor in much of the movie as well, which helps manage the tension. The ending brought a particular reveal to bear which threw the entire story on its head, although it’s interesting how the director managed to see-saw expectations and sympathies in the movie.
It feels like a blend of THE SIXTH SENSE, MISERY, MOMMIE DEAREST, and THE SHINING — elements of all of these movies are braided together in this film, to good (and squirm-inducing) effect. I liked this movie, although it was a harrowing one, as well. But that’s what you expect from a horror movie.
I will say that it’s not conventionally scary as you’d expect from other horror movies; rather, it’s just creepy and unsettling and in some places gross. But there are no real jump scares in it, just a relentless execution of the plot toward a jarring conclusion (and a grim fairytale ending).