‘Goodnight Mommy’ review: Naomi Watts has twin problems

‘Goodnight Mommy’ review: Naomi Watts has twin problems

ADVERTISEMENT

Few remakes feel necessary, but English-language versions of international horror films have a particularly hard time justifying their existence. We certainly didn’t need George Sluizer or Michael Haneke to remake their own “The Vanishing” and “Funny Games” for the benefit of a subtitle-averse audience, nor did anyone ask for a “Let the Right One In” remake. when it was first released. “Need” and “want” are two different things, of course, and it’s almost unheard of for any of these remakes to be pretty good — just ask Naomi Watts, who followed her star-making turn in “Mulholland Drive” with “The Ring.” .” The two-time Oscar nominee is now the face of Matt Sobel’s remake of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s Goodnight Mommy. Well, maybe not exactly the face — as in the original, her head is obscured by surgical bandages for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent.

Few remakes feel really necessary, but English-language versions of international horror films have a particularly hard time justifying their existence. We certainly didn’t need George Sluizer or Michael Haneke to remake their own “The Vanishing” and “Funny Games” for the benefit of a subtitle-averse audience, nor did anyone ask for a “Let the Right One In” remake. when it was first released. “Need” and “want” are two different things, of course, and it’s almost unheard of for any of these remakes to be pretty good — just ask Naomi Watts, who followed her star-making turn in “Mulholland Drive” with “The Ring.” .” (She was also in the English-language “Funny Games,” but we won’t blame her.) The two-time Oscar nominee now finds herself the face of Matt Sobel’s remake of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s “Goodnight Mommy,” which is Austrian duo directed in 2014. Well, kinda — like in the original, her character’s face is obscured by surgical bandages for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent.

The film immediately checks two eerie boxes: not only the sight of mother (Watts) in a mask, reminiscent of “Eyes Without a Face,” but also twin brothers dressed in the exact same outfit, an inherently disturbing image since the Grady twins. announced their intentions to play with Danny Torrance in “The Shining” forever and ever. We’re not exactly sure what procedure required this protection, although she suggests it was cosmetic in nature; she asks Elias and Lucas (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti, respectively) not to tell their father, who dropped them off for their extended visit with mother at her mansion after an unknown time away from each other.

ADVERTISEMENT

“What do you think she looks like underneath?” asks one of them not long after arriving. The boys are excited to see their mother, but they are also put off by both her face and a new set of strict rules: keep the blinds closed as she is currently sensitive to sunlight, keep the noise down and stay away from her bedroom and office . (They even resort to singing “You are my sunshine” by their solitary after she says they’re too old for a good night song – the horror!) She never raises her voice or gets really mad at them that first day, but she makes seem distant, even different—so much so that Elias and Lucas can’t help but wonder if the woman under the bandage is their mother.

A veteran of the genre, though he’s never really been a scream queen, Watts is delightfully unsettling in a role that requires her to mask both her character’s true nature and her face. Realizing that the person who gave birth to you exists as a living, breathing human being outside of her role as your mother is odd enough when you’re sure she’s in fact your mother, and Watts taps into the ambiguity as a magician who her latest sleight of hand.

One standout scene is Elias semi-accidentally spying on his mother as she dances in front of the mirror to Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You” in her underwear. That she smokes a cigarette for what seems to be the first time is one thing; that she just tore up a picture they drew for her is something else entirely. Although clearly disturbed, he can’t look away – her movements are strange, even strange, and at the moment he can’t tell if it’s a completely different person under that bandage or someone he’s never really seen until now, as we’re more learn about what is really going on in the remote house.

So are the boys delusional, or is “mother” not a mother at all? “Goodnight Mommy” never makes it clear, blurring the line between paranoid thriller and psychological horror more effectively than you’d expect from a remake whose source material changes don’t require the kind of dressing the star covers herself in. Also porous are the lines separating villain from victim, scrolls that keep shifting back and forth between the children and their mother.

The twins have their own dynamic, with Lucas being more dominant over his brother and less trusting of his mother, whom Elias just wants to love — and be loved. No one seen in the original will be shocked by the trajectory of their relationship as this “Goodnight Mommy” hits the same narrative beats as its predecessor, but those who haven’t may be pleasantly surprised. While decidedly less nerve-wracking than the original—both the twins’ behavior and Mother’s dressing are considerably less creepy this time around—the film manages to feel less cynical and redundant than most retellings. You may have to strip some bandages off to find out what makes “Goodnight Mommy” worthwhile, but at least there’s something to be found.

ADVERTISEMENT

Previous articleNewFest, New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival, Announces 2022 Lineup
Next articleRobert De Niro, Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne Cast in ‘Inappropriate Behavior’