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It’s a rare occurrence for a trailer to be as unsettling as Goodnight Mommy‘s without giving away the most disturbing bits. The film itself lives up to the trailer as it paints a twisted beautiful tale of a family’s struggle with loss. The film plays outs at a slow burn pace with each act shifting its tones until the unnerving third act.

The film follows a set of 9-year-old twin brothers Elias (Elias Schwarz) and Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) as they navigate their new home in the secluded German countryside. Their mother (Susanne Wuest) is a former anchorwoman who returns home to recover from major cosmetic surgery after a major accident. The two boys suspect something is wrong with their mother beyond the bandages as she acts withdrawn and hostile to them, Lukas in particular. Soon the boys start to believe the woman in the bandages is not their mother and begin to act upon their suspicions.

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Lukas Schwarz and Elias Schwarz give great presences in Goodnight Mommy.

The filmmakers do an excellent job of diversion, keeping the audience questioning the boys and their actions throughout the film. One of the main ways they do this is by switching the tone through each act to help build the tension. Goodnight Mommy preys upon its audience using beautiful cinematography (shot on 35mm) to pull them in, only to exploit their phobias creating a mood of distrust and paranoia. While never utilizing jump scares, the film using images of cockroaches, dead animals, and peaks at the mother’s cut up face to add to the intensity. This is, until the final act where fans of the genre are tested with brutal imagery that rivals some of Takashi Miike’s best horror work. The camera work is beautiful as the filmmakers use and create space to varying degrees for the actors to occupy creating an eery presence.

Goodnight Mommy is not only a great exercise in tension and diversion, but is a great character study of people who have survived a great tragedy. The characters in the film all seem to cope with the accident in their own way, often with anger and seclusion. As the boys’ suspicions rise, we start to see the motives behind each character’s actions come out organically. The film is a great piece of horror that should be experienced with little to no knowledge beforehand in a theater. The crowd reaction during the third act alone is worth the ticket. – 8/10

Goodnight Mommy is now playing in select theaters.

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