Is this reimagining of a horror classic a worthy successor to the film that first terrified audiences?
Remakes of classic films, especially those in the horror category, almost never live up to the quality of the originals. As evidence of this, you need go no further than the subpar versions of Psycho, The Fog, and Flatliners that have been released in recent years.
There are, without a doubt, certain notable exemptions. Let Me In, which was directed by Matt Reeves and was a remake of Tomas Alfredson’s vampire story Let The Right One In, was really a pretty decent movie. The filmmaker was able to maintain the tight and emotional atmosphere of the creepy original, which was a testament to the film’s overall quality. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Philip Kaufman and released in 1978, is another good remake. It is arguable that this version is more terrifying (and better in general) than Don Siegel’s original communist allegory, which was published in 1956.
Why am I talking about new versions of old movies? Goodnight Mommy is a remake of an Austrian film released in 2014 of the same name. If you aren’t already aware of this, Matt Sobel’s Goodnight Mommy, which is currently streaming on Prime Video in some regions, is a remake of the film.
Both movies share a similar storyline, which centres on two brothers named Elias and Lukas who pay a visit to their mother, an actress, only to learn that she isn’t the same person she used to be. They are shocked to find out that she has changed. One of the differences that they observe immediately upon their arrival is the surgical mask that is wrapped around her face; however, the boys have more to worry about than just her external look. Their mother used to be a kind and caring person, but now she is cold and aloof, and her behaviour is getting closer and closer to being abusive.
The lads start to develop the suspicion that the woman hiding behind the mask is actually an imposter as a result of these personality shifts. The answer to this question is at the heart of the film’s core enigma, which can be found in both the remake and the original film. Do the twins still reside at home with their mother? Or do they totally reside in a home that is shared with another individual?
If you have seen the movie in its original form, you will already be familiar with the response. As I was saying, the storyline of this 2022 remake is very close to the original. In spite of this, the two films are not entirely comparable to one another because Sobel’s film deviates in significant respects.
Does this imply that it’s a poor version of the original? The answer to that question is going to depend on who you ask. It is certainly not as bad as the movies that I mentioned at the beginning of this review because this movie benefits from some creative direction and convincing performances from its talented cast, with special mention to Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti who play the twin boys. It is certainly not as bad as the movies that I mentioned at the beginning of this review because this movie benefits from some creative direction and convincing performances. However, it is not as shocking as the original that Alfredson created, and if you are familiar with his film, you may find the adjustments that Sobel has made to be disappointing.
In the version from 2014, the mother is a much more dangerous character than the one that Naomi Watts portrayed in the remake. She is mean, evasive, and behaves in a manner that is almost robotic, and she never reveals to the boys whether or not she is in fact their biological mother. Elias harbours some misgivings about the mother portrayed by Watts, but she vehemently denies those allegations and claims that she is, in fact, the boys’ mother. She continues to behave in a peculiar manner, but she is not quite as mysterious as the woman in Alfredson’s movie.
In order to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the masked woman, the guys in both movies collect evidence to support their claims. When they realise that they are sharing their living space with a total stranger, they take their wrath out on her. In the first version of the film, there are several sequences in which the twins perpetrate acts of violence on the woman, including some that are truly revolting. In the new version of the story, Watts’ mother has a much easier time of it since, with the exception of a bucket of ice water, her sons do not torment her in the same manner as before.
Your level of comfort with terrifying content will determine whether you view these alterations as a positive or negative development. If you find disturbing scenes of violence upsetting, particularly those in which children play a role, you may be relieved to learn that the remake is significantly less intense than the original film directed by Alfredson. If, on the other hand, you were hoping for something that was as as chillingly dismal as the original film, you might be less thrilled with the remake because the violence is what gave that film its visceral punch.
The film by Sobel is also distinct in a number of other respects. It is not nearly as tense as the film from 2014, and the aura of mystery is dulled because there are one or more hints that point directly to the unexpected conclusion. The film directed by Alfredson was characterised by its opacity, and we were not privy to any of the film’s revelations until the very end. The criticism that English-language remakes of foreign-language films dumb down the material for western viewers is a common one, and it is an argument that may be levelled against this particular remake. You won’t get quite the same experience if you watch this movie as you did if you watched the title that came before it. This does not mean that the film is without value; however, because it is not as unsettling or as intelligent as the film that came before it, you won’t get quite the same experience.
If you have not watched the version of Goodnight Mommy that was released in 2014, then you will not have anything to compare the remake to, which may be viewed as a positive aspect of the situation. You won’t have a valid excuse to complain about the shift of mood or the diluted scenes that take place between the boys and their mother, and you should have a good time with the myriad of twists and turns that are woven into the story.
Let’s go back to the question we started with: is this a poor remake of an old horror movie? There is a great deal of creative skill on exhibit, both in front of and behind the camera, therefore I don’t believe that to be the case. If you have watched the film directed by Alfredson, you may have a valid reason to complain about it, but I suspect that your primary objections will have more to do with the way the story is retold than with the aesthetic of the film itself.
If you haven’t seen the film by Alfredson to use as a point of reference, you might be able to tolerate the one that Sobel directed. If you have a problem with subtitled films or scenes of extreme horror, you will be relieved to learn that this version isn’t nearly as bad as some of the other remakes that you may have seen in the past. However, if you want the best possible experience, you should watch the movie that came out in 2014 instead.
Grief, Identity, and Mother’s Fate
Trauma is another potential explanation for the odd behaviour exhibited by Elias’ mother. As she struggles to come to terms with her son’s passing, she is unable to stand to look at Elias in the same way ever again. All of her pleasant recollections, such as her singing bedtime songs, have been tainted by this recent event. As a direct result of her sadness, she has evolved into a very different person, and as a result, she has the distinct impression that she is a fraud.
It is likely that Elias’ mother forbade him from playing in the barn because that is where their father’s rifle was found. She would have never hit Elias in the face before Lukas’ passing away. Despite this, Elias continues to demonstrate that he is unwilling to accept the truth. Elias throws his mother over a pillar in their barn after his mother has shown him the evidence of her infidelity. Elias escapes into the darkness after the barn is set ablaze by the others.
The Cycle Continues
After escaping the wreckage of the barn, Elias finds himself in an open field where he collapses and begins to cry. He is clapped on the back and given a pat on the shoulder as he watches the fire spread. There is also his brother Lukas present, and both of them give him a hug. He is reassured by his mother that he has not done anything improper. On the other hand, it is unequivocally obvious that this is really another delusion. Because he was having trouble processing Lukas’ death, he started having doubts about who his mother was, and now he can’t take the knowledge that he’s also responsible for her death. He started having doubts about his mother because he couldn’t handle Lukas’ death. Elias is able to keep his hallucination alive because he has no one to direct him.