by Dwight Casimere
It begins withe Brahm's famous lullaby and shots of sandy- blond twins, Lukas and Elias (Lukas and Elias Schwarz) frolicking in the Austrian countryside, doing all the things that pre-teen boys do when no one else is looking. (There are plenty of belching and flatulence jousts as the film progresses). It's only after we enter the realm of their stark, ultra-modern home in the middle of nowhere, that we get a hint that something is about to be gravely amiss. Their mother (Susanne Wuest) suddenly enters the house, her face awash in bandages. Was it elective plastic surgery, or something necessitated by tragedy? There are few clues, save for flashes of a blood shot eye, or a brief glimpseof the mother examining her face sans bandages and inspecting her breasts (were they surgically lifted?). A muffled phone conversation reveals that she's some type of television interviewer or news presenter, but that's not central to the plot development. What is is the growing suspicion between the boys that the mummy-wrapped person they see before them isn't really their mother at all, but some malevolent imposter.
The story, written and directed by Veronica Franz and Severin Fiala, with glossy cinematography by Martin Gschlacht, unfolds with Hitchkock-ian suspense. As the boys fashion crude weapons from their toolbox of childish toys; a crossbow is outfitted with No. 2 pencils, honed to pygmy-dart deadliness. A swarm of cockroaches raised as pets in terrarium are enlisted as a battalion of predators. The boys eventually overpower their mother and imprison her, turning her bed into a torture chamber where super glue is used in the film's most graphic, squeel-producing scene.
There are hints throughout that something is not quite right as the film unspools like the tight wire springs of a fine antique clock. Gschlacht does an excellent job of contrasting the pastoral scene outside the home with the mounting bleakness and horror inside. Along with that is the 'sixth sense' that everything shown before us, is not as it seems. Although we've heard the leitmotif of this film before, somehow it plays out differently in Goodnight Mommy, and leaves an unsettled feeling in its wake. The original Austrian title of this film was Ich Seh Ich Seh (I see, I see). It's apparent that in Goodnight Mommy, not everything you see on the screen is reality.