M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on September 11, 2015. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also streaming on Shudder!
GOODNIGHT MOMMY (2015)
aka ICH SHE ICH SHE
Directed by Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
Written by Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
Starring Susanne Wuest, Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz, Hans Escher, Elfriede Schatz, Karl Purker, Georg Deliovsky, Christian Steindl, Christian Schatz, Erwin Schmalzbauer
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
In horror, more times than not, the goal is to lure the viewer or reader in and then attack them when their guard is down with horrifying images that often challenge ones perception of what is right or wrong, up or down, inside or out. The whole concept of tension is to build trust, only to pull the rug out and give the viewer a thrill. From the very beginning; with the dream like setting and the playful behavior of twins Lucas and Elias (played by real life twins Lucas and Elias Schwarz), I just didn’t trust this film. It gave me a creepy feeling from the get go. Blame Serling or O’Henry or M. Night Shamalayan or whoever, but the surreal landscape and cold look of every scene in GOODNIGHT MOMMY made me proceed with caution. Because of that, I feel GOODNIGHT MOMMY is going to be another one of those polarizing films. The type of film that some folks love for the weirdness of it all and the type some folks will call stoopid because they were able to see through the mist and call the film’s bluff early on. As a person who appreciates the road traveled rather much more than the arrival at a destination, I has ana amazing time with GOODNIGHT MOMMY.
The aforementioned twins seem to have been left alone in a wild and untamed world of cornfields, serene lakes, dark caverns, and spongy earth. After a day of playing, they return home to find their mother returning from the hospital, bandaged around her face apparently from a recent and nondescript accident. Testy and tired, Mother (played by Susanne Wuest) doesn’t put up with the behavior of the boys and not looking or behaving like the loving mother they knew, the twins decide that this person, bandaged and weary, is not their mother. Whether or not that is true is left to be determined as the narrative unfolds and the twins test their mother to see if she in fact is a stranger invading their home and replacing their beloved mother.
This film deals with identity. Not only with the way one looks being the way you feel about a person, but with the way one identifies oneself within a family unit. Because their mother looks completely different from what they know and understand, the twins believe her to be someone else. The kids love their mother, but the concept that the look of ones’ mother might change is something that is too much for a child-like mind and therefore, the sight of mother in a new form immediately shakes the twins world to their core.
At the same time, because of some clever narrative twists, the twins begin to merge into one unit, losing their individuality and functioning as one as twins often do. The oddity of the mirror image in the form of a twin is examined thoroughly in this film as Cronenberg did in DEAD RINGERS in which the screen is often solely dedicated to twins doing something similar, doing something together, or saying lines at once. This also applies to the Jungian archetype of the twin. When presented with identical twins, the tendency of the human mind is to differentiate the two. When that is seemingly impossible, it immediately confuses the brain and makes for an uneasy feeling. GOODNIGHT MOMMY is filled with these instances and while this film is ripe with weirdness, the fact that it involves twins plays with ones perceptions in a surreal way that immediately makes you feel as if this is some kind of unreal and uneasy realm the story is functioning within.
Now on top of the twin stuff (which is weird enough), there is an abundance of surreal landscapes, silent action and imagery, hissing cockroaches, flames, sickly cats, and weird masks. Even if twins don’t freak you out, it’s more than likely that something from the list I just threw out will. This is a film designed to unease from frame one until the last and I found it to be successful in doing so pretty much the entire time. The simplistic and cold way GOODNIGHT MOMMY is presented doesn’t capture the imagery in a shocking fashion, which makes it all the more disconcerting. A scene of a dead cat floating in kerosene can be presented in the same cold manner as a lushly green field and both have such an otherworldly and serene presentation that it all feels like some kind of twisted, inescapable dream.
Actors Lukas & Elias Schwarz are phenomenal as we see this film through their eyes. Watching these two play with one another in the bath and have burping contests immediately make you take their side and see the world through their seemingly honest and innocent eyes. But as I said before, this is a film that can’t be trusted. And letting your guard down just because these kids are seemingly innocent is a mistake their “Mother” and myself as the viewer made. As the story unfolds, it is evident that Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz are master filmmakers in the sense of creating a world where the bizarre occurs in a mesmerizing fashion.
I was able to pin down where this film was going early on and I’m sure savvy filmgoers will be able to do so as well. That said, this awareness of what was happening in the story didn’t take away from GOODNIGHT MOMMY being so damn effective in conveying a sense of uneasy dream with the threat of a dark nightmare looming just in the periphery. GOODNIGHT MOMMY is much more than just the hook and the twist. It’s about mood and playing with the way we perceive what is real and what is not supposed to be. Flipping expectations and what we know is right and wrong on it’s head, GOODNIGHT MOMMY is a film that will not be forgotten once seen.
THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!
#11 – GOODNIGHT MOMMY
#12 – LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
#13 – STARRY EYES
#14 – THE BOY
#15 – THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN
#16 – THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME
#17 – THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS
#18 – CUB
#19 – POD
#20 – BACKCOUNTRY
#21 – CLOSER TO GOD
#22 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#23 – A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
#24 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
#25 – THE EDITOR
#26 – DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD
#27 – PARA ELISA
#28 – THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#30 – EXISTS
#31 – A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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