'Goodnight Mommy' review: Crafty American remake is a worthy companion to the Austrian version
Courtesy of Prime Video
Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’ Austrian horror film “Goodnight Mommy” was a nightmarish descent that quickly moved from panic to chaos. An elegant, nasty little feature all but destined to get the American remake treatment, Director Matt Sobel’s take on the material (with the help of screenwriter Kyle Warren) certainly doesn’t reach the skin crawling heights 2014’s iteration produced, but 2022’s “Goodnight Mommy” flips the script, introduces an earned last second twist, and has excellent performances from Naomi Watts and twins, Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti.
The crux of the narrative hasn’t changed, but the contextualization has: that of twin brothers, Elias and Lucas arriving at their mother’s lavish summer home where something about their once nurturing, caring, and lullaby singing matriarch feels off. In the original version, it was clearly stated Mother had undergone some type of face changing surgery (hence the extensive bandages that cover her face) but Sobel and Warner kind of let the boys’ imaginations fill in the blank. Watts, to her credit, crafts a fractured and terrifying performance with her expressions and vocal inflection (also behind heavy garbs of facial bandages) doing most of the heavy lifting.
As Mother grows more irksome and flustered (she screams at the boys for playing in an outdoor shed, being too loud, and just about anything else) Elias and Lucas begin suspecting mom might be an imposter and question minor characteristics like why her eyes are a different color and how she no longer remembers a precious bedtime song. The anxiety festers as Sobel reframes the original plot from Elias’ perspective and explores the psychology of his fears and the lengths he’ll go to uncover the truth.
A good remake can deepen your relationship to the original and Sobel’s “Goodnight Mommy” is a solid companion piece alongside the horrors Fiala and Franz manufactured nearly a decade ago. I respected and appreciated the minor tweaks and changes made to this fresher incarnation, namely giving more insight, and understanding into the trauma these children endure from someone they perceive as a threat.
This “Goodnight Mommy” isn’t as brutally violent or grotesque (I remember several walk-outs at my screening in 2014) and takes a measured approach in what might be considered a controversial third act reveal. Nevertheless, the film aims for something completely different and mostly succeeds on the dynamic among Watts and the Crovetti twins. Fans of 2014’s “Goodnight Mommy” can breathe some relief knowing this remake doesn’t tarnish the original’s legacy and manages to stand on its own.
GOODNIGHT MOMMY debuts on Amazon Prime Video, Friday September 15th.