Chaos reigns when a mother returns from a surgery in Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s Goodnight Mommy (Ich Seh Ich Seh). Despite its production values, the movie is more sadistic than scary, and its twist, taking a page out of Alejandro Amenábar’s book, is unsurprising, if not predictable. Besides one brilliant expository scene early on—when mother and sons play “Guess Who?”—Goodnight Mommy relies on generic buildup at the expense of character development, and it errs by not going further to advance the collapse-of-a-nuclear-family theme it establishes in the opening shot. Moreover, certain motifs, like the crucifix, which could be explored, are instead chucked aside, relegated to being red herrings. Last year’s Hungarian A Nagy Füzet (The Notebook), a sort of gothic fairy tale about two brothers’ Darwinian struggle to survive during WWII, though not in the horror genre, was far more horrific. In Goodnight Mommy, however, cinematography, sound editing, production design have to do too much heavy lifting to sustain a dull narrative. In German.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White