goodnight mommy | severin fiala | veronika franz | lukas schwarz | elias schwarz | susanne wuest | mystery | thriller | austria | hans escher | torture | elfriede schatz | karl purker | georg deliovsky | christian steindl | christian schatz | erwin schmalzbauer
Film: Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh ich seh)
Director: Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz
Writer: Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala
Starring: Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz and Susanne Wuest
This was a movie that I remember first hearing about right around the time that I got into listening to podcasts. It’s been a few years since it came out, but I lucked out that the Gateway Film Center was showing this movie due to the writers and directors, Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s film, The Lodge, was being released. My fiancée Jaime shocked me, as she’s fairly new to the genre at that time, stating that she had seen this. I told her my plan to watch this in the theater and she elected to join me as well. The synopsis here is twin boys move to a new home with their mother after she has face changing cosmetic surgery, but under her bandages is someone the children don’t recognize.
We start this off seeing a clip for an older movie as children along with a woman is singing goodnight. It then takes us to seeing two boys, Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) and Elias (Elias Schwarz) as they’re playing in a cornfield, a lake and other places outside. When they return home, their Mother (Suanne Wuest) is home. She has undergone cosmetic surgery and is in bandages. She lays down the new rules that she needs to recover and needs her rest. This includes them needing to knock on her door before entering, to be quiet, not let anyone in and not to bring new pets into the house.
Of course, these boys violate all of these rules. They’re suspicious of this woman that claims to be their mother. They go about figuring out who she is and what happened to their real mother. She isn’t very nice to them either, to the point where she seems to be completely ignoring Lukas, forcing him to ask for things and not allowing Elias to do so.
Things take a pretty dark turn when they’re fed up with her and terrified of some of things that she does to them. They take some drastic measures to get the answers they’re looking for. The real question becomes though, is this woman their mother or is there something wrong with these boys?
Now I wanted to go a bit lighter on the recap here as there’s not a lot in the way of story. I was reading up on some trivia after getting home from seeing this and learned that there really wasn’t a script. I’m slightly surprised that is the case with how well this movie really does work to not have one. I guess it does make sense that they probably came up with what they needed to get across with each scene and that it was shot in chronological order.
There’s a lot to delve into this movie, despite the story not being that complex. I’m going to have a spoiler section at the end of this so I won’t go too deep here if you haven’t seen this yet. These two boys though are quite intriguing. They’re twins and I think that does add a lot to their performance. We are also seeing this from mostly their point of view, which does make me question if some of things that we’re seeing is really happening or they think these events are. I do find it creepy that they keep cockroaches as pets. Also I feel bad for the punishment that the mother hands down. What she does to Elias is traumatic and Lukas is pretty much ignored. I’m not saying that some of the things they do don’t warrant these punishments, but the mother isn’t completely blameless.
That is something I want to delve into, the boys not recognizing their mother. She has a nose job done so she’s in bandages I would say for the first half of this movie. It does make sense that they would think she’s someone else. The medication she is on and she is moody during her recovery does seem to add to that. There’s a video of her with different color eyes. She points out that is due to contacts, which is logical. We also get an interesting scene early on when they’re playing a guessing game and the mother can’t get the answer which to be honest, is genius for the name she is given. It doesn’t prove anything though, but to these children, I can see the logical.
If I did have an issue, I would say that this does run a bit too long. I like the idea they’re working with and this film had me cringing during the climax. There is a just a bit early in the second act that really lost me for a stretch. I think it does get a bit repetitive and where not having a full script does hurt. It is interesting to see how this writer/director team corrects it for their next film though for sure. I do like where it ends up and the possible implications of what we get to see at the end. There was also another scene I had an issue with two Red Cross workers just coming into the house. This sequence is there to add tension, but I don’t know if I fully buy they would just come in like they did.
Something that I did enjoy though was the acting. These two boys aren’t great, but there’s something creepy about them. I do think that in part of that is the fact that they are twins. They’re also so convinced that this can’t be their mother that they really do descend into madness through frustration to prove it. Building on that, I did state earlier the punishments they’re given really don’t help either. Wuest did well and I feel quite bad for her as to what happens. She is kind of to blame which I’ll go over in the spoilers, but she doesn’t deserve what happens. The rest of the cast is fine for what is needed in rounding this out.
That would take me to the effects, which we don’t get a lot. The ones we do though are brutally realistic looking to be honest. There are a couple of scenes with super glue that had me cringing. On top of that the blood looks quite real. You can see they did this with practical effects and it works much better than using CGI. I think there’s a bit when it comes to things with fire, but it doesn’t linger long enough for me to really critique that, which is strategic. The cinematography was also good and that helps a movie like this. It works how they build up how isolated this house is. That adds a creepy factor as well. What helps there is the boys flee to town at one point. It is a manageable journey, but it isn’t the easiest.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. I did notice for long stretches there isn’t one. I think that is effective in building some of the awkwardness there. We do get some string style music though as well that really does help to build tension. This movie had my anxiety going though when things get crazy and the score does help there.
Now with that said, I liked this movie and I’m glad that I finally saw it. I think this really has some interesting aspects that it is exploring. We get a descent into madness and mistrust through that. I think the acting helps to bring that to life. The effects made me cringe with the realism and I think the soundtrack fits for what they needed in helping to build tension or the lack of one at times to help that uneasy feeling as well. If I did have an issue, I think this movie runs a bit long to be honest. Not enough to ruin it, as it had me hooked from the middle on for sure. My rating of this would be a good movie and would recommend giving this a viewing. There’s a stretch that I’m not sure non-horror fans would be able to handle, but if you can get through that, I think this is an intriguing little film.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
To get right into this, we see that very early on Elias is given a drink from his mother. This is really within the first 10 minutes of the movie. Lukas tells Elias to let her know that he wants a drink as well. She tells him that Lukas needs to ask her if he wants something. We get little things like this throughout the movie as it turns out that Lukas is dead. I think the acting does well in having the mother only addressing one of them and they strategically hide this. I will admit that Jaime somewhat spoiled this by accident at breakfast, but what she said didn’t give it away. I did figure it out and pieced together what she said about halfway through this movie.
I do think that Elias does have some issue though in the punishment his mother gave him. She did entertain the idea that he was talking to his brother and it is mentally handicapping him when she changes this and punishes him. It doesn’t help this change was made after her surgery so he is correlating it to her being a different person. Due to that, Elias with imaginary Lukas punishes her thinking that this different woman is not their actual mother. I think this works as it layers all three of this characters to the point where you feel bad for all of them, but also hate them for things that they’re doing. Regardless, the mother didn’t deserve what happened to her even if I don’t agree with what she was doing to Elias to get him to move on.