The main diegesis of Goodnight Mommy begins with two twin brothers being children. They play tag in a corn field and frolic through the woods. They cautiously enter through a dark void of a passageway, referring back to the viewers themselves, who are choosing to do the same by watching this film.
The film opens with an immediate sense of stillness. But there is the knowledge that the stillness is finite, and thus unsettling.
There is, indeed, a light dirge accompanying the very existence of the film, the soundtrack a hyper-aware yet concealing figure.
The two brothers, Lukas and Elias, have a feeling that their mother, after an operation that leaves her face in bandages, is acting different than normal. There is a strange fascination to the mother’s character. She ignores her children and plays favorite between them. She places strict rules on their behavior around the estate, and she checks her body frequently.
The score is always cycling between one of two phases: a chilling, airy vibrato or a stagnant pulse in the background. In both cases, it is mood-setting in the most unnerving way. In some cases, the absence of score is equally moody.
The film, at first, appears to be an experiment of the cerebrally disturbed persuasion. We get instances of nearly surreal disturbances. They may sicken or chill, but mainly they confuse.
In some ways, this film is about the struggle of keeping a family together under traumatic circumstances, the stress of which may lead a parent down the path of abuse. This abusiveness, then, can be reversed. This complication of the main plot may speak volumes of this film’s credibility in the horror genre, as it stretches beyond the laziness of convention to tackle a serious subject.
However, the ending of this film throws this subtext out the window. The final third inches the movie closer and closer to torture porn territory, which, although not a terrible direction for this movie to go in all things considered, could have been handled better. It is an abrupt changeover that splits this movie awkwardly in two.
Goodnight Mommy, for the first hour, could easily be an unsettling portrayal of parental abuse. For a child undergoing such horror, the parent is still a parent that they know and love, yet there is a second identity that wears an unfamiliar face (such as a mask of bandages).
Of course, this analysis is completely derailed as the plot accelerates into madness, leaving us with another torture porn installment into the horror-verse. But, for awhile, there is nothing but loads of juicy tension and suspense to latch onto, and that is something to praise.
As always, thanks for reading!
Goodnight Mommy is currently available to buy/rent on Amazon Video here.
Have you seen Goodnight Mommy? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)