‘Goodnight Mommy’: Mind-bending horror keeps you guessing and trembling

Oh boy.

Do NOT watch “Goodnight Mommy” if genuinely bone-chilling scary movies keep you up at night.

Do NOT watch “Goodnight Mommy” if you get the heebie-jeebies at the sight of identically dressed twin boys standing silently in the window.

Do NOT watch “Goodnight Mommy” if you’re freaked out by movies where creepy-crawling things and Super Glue and magnifying glasses are used as in creatively devilish ways.

Do NOT watch “Goodnight Mommy” if you prefer your horror movies wrapped up in a neat and bloody bow. After a friend of mine screened the film (and loved it), she emailed me a list of about 10 questions and/or theories about certain characters and certain scenes.

This is the kind of movie that has me contemplating a feature in which those of us who have seen a film get together in a SPOILER room and talk about every plot element with impunity because we’re not ruining it for everyone else.

As the reviewer urging you to see this film if you love original, mind-bending, psychological chillers, I’m going to give you the basics and leave it to you to discover the wicked and sick joys of this film.

“Goodnight Mommy” is set mostly in a luxurious (and suitably spooky) home in the Austrian countryside, far from civilization. It appears as if twin 10-year-old boys named Lukas and Elias (played by Lukas and Elias Schwarz, who are both frighteningly good) are the sole occupants of the house, which seems more than a little weird but winds up being about the 37th weirdest touch in this story.

Enter Mommy (Susanne Wuest), home from the hospital, recovering from extensive reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, wrapped in bandages that cover nearly everything save her eyes. She looks like a creature from a 1930s horror film, and the boys are understandably reluctant to embrace her — especially when she seems so much colder and more distant than she used to be.

Locks are installed to keep the boys from exiting their room or getting out of the house. Rules are established, turning the boys into virtual prisoners in their own home.

Soon Lukas and Elias are wondering whether this woman in the mask of bandages is even their real mother. They attempt to escape, they try to trick her into revealing her true nature, they search for clues as to what has really happened — and they hatch a plot to turn the tables.

I’ll say no more about the plot. Suffice to say, things go from haunting to bizarre to gruesome to shocking.

Directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala do a beautiful job of giving us just a little more rope with every scene, just a little bit more of a hint as to what’s really happening. The cinematography is brilliant, whether the boys are enjoying a rare moment in a sun-dappled field, racing through a rainstorm or having nightmares in the dark.

The house is almost a character unto itself, with the artwork and the knick-knacks and the photographs giving hints as to what’s going on. “Goodnight Mommy” is the kind of movie you should experience without watching the trailer or learning too much about it — and then experience again with the full knowledge of what happened, so you can admire the ways in which the puzzle was put together.


RADiUS-TWC presents a film written and directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. In German with English subtitles. Running time: 99 minutes. Rated R (for disturbing violent content and some nudity). Opens Friday at the Music Box Theatre.

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