Goodnight Mommy, or "Ich seh, ich seh," is a 2015 Austrian horror movie about twin boys dealing with their mother who is just back from surgery, has her face hidden behind bandages, and is acting very strangely. As their measures start to escalate, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. Check out the trailer below if you haven't seen it yet. Oh yeah, and spoilers follow.
Jake: I mean . . . What a dick. Right? Fuck that kid. That’s my review.
Jack: *Mic drop.* Solid review. I guess I don’t have the same way with words, so mine is less succinct. I enjoyed this movie. The first and most notable thing about it is how beautiful the cinematography is. The way the indoor shots are framed, and the way upon which the outdoor shots are lingered. Damn. Just really pretty. Goodnight Mommy is German horror movie that came out just recently amidst a sea of hype. It’s easy to see why: the trailer made it look truly unsettling. Check out the trailer now if you haven't seen it:
Jake: Actually, it’s an Austrian horror movie, you racist . . . I thought the trailer was good, but expected it might have blown its load, as it seems is so common with the horror genre in particular. There was some genuinely frightening shit in that trailer and I just hoped we weren’t given the film’s best moments up front. Everything set up well for this movie though. The cinematography was really unique and atmospheric, and I loved the premise as given in the trailer. Two young kids up against seemingly insurmountable odds and battling what appears to be a demonically possessed mother figure? With weapons? In.
Jack: You’re just a sucker for anything vaguely Goonies-related. The movie follows twin brothers Elias and Lukas, who are relatable and charming, while still maintaining a creepiness about them (they are twin children in a horror movie after all). Constantly dialog-light, the movie opens on the brothers playing outside in various gorgeous landscapes--running through fields, swimming in the lake, playing in the forest, etc. While beautiful, the shots are creepy right from the get go. Something about the serene silence and the way the boys are framed puts you just enough on-edge to notice.
Jake: I’m not sure how relatable those kids were, man. Not as relatable as any Goonie. But the sense of place is what I found most appealing about this movie. The interplay between the visuals and the audio was fantastic. Horror movies, for better or worse, live and die by what we hear as an audience. Jump scares are not nearly as jump-scary without the burst of sound. Moments of suspense and anticipation are not as suspenseful without the flourish of strings. What this movie does so well is strip everything down to its most basic to create an atmosphere. Instead of the strings, you hear the sounds of crickets and wind in the trees or the oscillation of a fan. It is effective and makes damn sure you do not feel comfortable.
Jack: Agreed. It also does a good job of making it clear that things are wrong without exposition: the kids are instantly uncomfortable, and the mom’s silence and refusal to even turn around at first makes the tension real. The whole movie has a minimalist soundtrack and score. That score is used early and well.Really contributed to the creepy feeling I got from the cinematography. Plot-wise, the movie gives you nothing. You have to work for every little ounce of understanding. Something made abundantly clear when the boys’ mom arrives in a car, prompting them to run inside to greet her. She’s all screwed up and bandaged-y. But how long was she gone for? The morning? Days? Weeks? Never answered; just move on to the next creepy set-piece. Left me wondering just what the hell was going on.
Jake: This is where I disagree a little bit. The movie was so deliberate about the nothing it gives you that, for me at least, I started trying to dissect what was going on from the jump. Probably too much. There is a particular sequence at the beginning where the two boys are playing; exploring a cave and floating on a pond, and you can sense something is amiss. Lukas disappears for a short time and my brain immediately went into overdrive on trying to figure out what could have happened. Because of that, I felt like I was relatively in on what this movie was getting at. Lukas has died in an accident and the boys’ mother escaped with facial injuries requiring hospitalization and setting the stage for her appearance and behavior. The movie never tells you this. What it does, however, is give you every single hint you could ask for. Mom’s only responding to Elias and acting like Lukas isn’t there? She isn’t feeding him?! What a terrible mother!.. OR, it’s because Lukas is dead the whole time and Elias has gone insane with grief and is imagining his brother’s existence.
Jack: Interesting. I felt like any time those thoughts crept into my brain, they were quickly extinguished by the mom walking into the woods all terrifying and face not-having. The shifts in the point of view from the kids’ to the moms’ felt too abrupt and too deliberate to not be meant to indicate that this mom is actually doing some creepy paranormal shit. I mean, clearly, they weren’t because Jake’s exactly right about what was happening, just . . . I dunno, I guess that makes the scenes from the mom’s point of view feel lazy and like the writers couldn’t think of another way to break the action up. Those scenes being the delusional hallucinations of a stone-cold maniac makes me wonder why the two times he hallucinates what his mom is doing, she’s stripping naked creepily.
Jake: You really need that answered? FUCK THAT KID IS WHY. It totally rang true to me for that reason. Kid’s a maniac. Imagining your mom stripping is all part and parcel . . . I mean I imagine anyway.
Jack: Okay, well like, fuck that mom too.
Jake: I swear to Jehovah if you’re defending this kid to me I will freak out on you.
Jack: I mean, I’m not defending anything the kid did post lip-cutting. But before that I was squarely on his side.
Jake: *calling the FBI* . . . yeah, uh-huh. What was that? Oh yeah, that thing you said: totally normal and not weird at all. But seriously, were you really?
Jack: You’d better believe it. Now maybe that’s because it’s impossible to tell what she was actually doing, and what was just in that little freak’s mind. I guess I was still thinking of her as creepy alien mom for quite awhile. Did she really kill that cat? Make him repeat she’s his mom? Hit him? Lock him in his room for a day and then come out all ‘we’re friends now right?’ Because that shit’s fucked up.
Jake: Hey man, I’m not here to judge Austrian child punishment standards. The way it’s shot does blur the line between where reality ends and psychosis begins. I took it as she lost her mind from the trauma of losing one son and having the other go straight out of his gourd. I didn’t see anything that was that absurdly out of line.
Jack: The world weeps for your future children. Can we talk about that cat for a second? More specifically where it came from? Surprise catacombs! Did I miss something? The kids are exploring and then all of a sudden skeletons! Specifically more skeletons (nicely bleached and preserved I might add) than a rural German family could normally produce in generations!
Jake: Austrian. You racist.
Jack: Maybe it was just another really cool set-piece. I did like the way they presented it. Don’t make a big deal out of it, it’s just kind of a thing. You’re not a Ger . . . Austrian ex-tv presenter with a weird rural house, you wouldn’t understand.
Jake: I hate you.
Jack: So there’s another thing I want to bring up. That town. Fuck that town. Way more than fuck that kid, fuck that town. One kid can kill his mom and the world will go on, but that town will still be there creeping the ever-living shit out of everyone and everything. Just another example that this movie’s strongest selling point is the filming. Fuck. That. Town. The lone psychotic poorly playing an accordion as the only resident? And then they never bring that up like it’s a normal thing.
Jake: What? I remember the trip to the town to find the priest. Accordion guy? That whole scene was like 45 seconds max. Why did you focus on it so much?
Jack: How did you not focus on it? It was without a doubt the most affecting scene of the movie for me. Most effective too. Just devastatingly creepy. A whole movie that could live up to that scene would be without a doubt one of the most traumatically frightening movies ever made.
Jake: That sir is a bold call. Especially considering that a full one-half of our team of dedicated and professional movie reviewers (me) barely remembers it.
Jack: You just don’t have your eyes open buddy. You’re one of the Sheeple that that maniac on the bus keeps telling me about.
Jake: Please stop listening to him. For all of our sakes. And speaking of segues, did it feel to you like the scene with the Red Cross was just in there because the writers felt like the movie was getting monotonous?
Jack: Your writing is truly beyond reproach. And yeah, it did. They’re the real villains of the piece. They just wander on in? And then when a little kid tells them his mom isn’t home and to leave, they just kip up? They took a real judgy tone for a couple of yahoos who forced their way into a little kid’s house. This kid did not need to hide his torture from them; I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they’re into some way weirder shit.
Jake: No way I’m taking that bet. Those two have seen things . . . Ratings?
For 1 think of what Anthony Bourdain thinks of Guy Fierri:
For 10 think of how Kel would rate orange soda:
Jack: 5 - Pretty classic horror movie stuff.
Jake: 7 - I liked how the movie hinted heavily at the “he’s been dead the whole time” element without feeling the need to try to go full Shyamalan with it.
WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION
Jack: 6 - Almost entirely due to the cinematography.
Jake: 8 - I was very into the world created here. The filmmakers took a pastoral setting and made it feel very bleak and uncomfortable. And it was beautiful.
Jack: 3 - Apart from a general feeling of unease and that one scene in the town, this movie didn’t do that much for me.
Jake: 4 - For general, sustained discomfort.
EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF)
Jack: 3 - This gets a low score from me for that entirely unnecessary scene in the woods
Jake: 6 - The lack of effects was refreshing, sans the scene Jack just mentioned, which I also hated and brings down this rating as a result.
Jack: 5 - Pretty solid little movie
Jake: 6.25 - 5 is an F, Jack. Which is not solid. We went to college together. You should know this. And you neglected math. Again. 6.25 is math, and is a D. But D’s get degrees, and I liked this movie enough for the most part. Give it a movie degree.