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article imageReview: ‘Goodnight Mommy’ takes on an unsettling tone Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 13, 2014 in Entertainment
‘Goodnight Mommy’ is a disturbing display of a child’s imagination run amok and the horrific uses they can devise for model glue.
A child's imagination is meant to be cherished and nourished. Not only is it a source of creativity, but can also be a coping mechanism to deal with tragic events. But where do you draw the line? In Goodnight Mommy, a boy's fantasy about his mother's identity is allowed to go too far until it eventually becomes excessively real for everyone involved.
Worried about her age and dealing with a disintegrating family, the newly single mother (Susanne Wuest) has extensive cosmetic surgery. When she returns home, her young twin sons (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) are suspicious of the irritable woman beneath all the bandages. Left alone as she recuperates, their distrust is able to take root until their uncertainty leads to gory consequences.
The introduction dubbed the film as one that would cause viewers to reconsider having children or make them more suspect of the ones they already have. They weren't lying. These kids' play time becomes a terrifying macabre of interrogation and torture. The most disturbing part is their prisoner is their own mother.
What appears to begin as typical, spiteful behavior, Elias screams, "You're not my real mother," when he's punished. The difference is he wholly believes it. Nightmares of a faceless woman feed his anxiety. Meanwhile Lukas echoes all his fears and encourages him to take action to get back their actual mother.
The horror of the film exists in its realism. The actions of the children are extreme, but conceivable. Their eccentricities are established early on with their obsession with insects and treatment of animals. Their tools are all regular household items and the methods are often extensions of the games they play. Combined, these elements result in a terrifying argument against trusting kids.
The story itself has a twist built into the final act, though there are countless clues leading up to the reveal if one is paying attention. The gradual progression of their delusion is perfectly scripted, making their solution expected but equally horrific. In addition, the few obstacles they encounter during their last stand are handled humorously and excruciatingly, respectively.
Excellent performances by the mother and two boys give this movie the authenticity that makes it standout as a unique and disturbing horror narrative.
Goodnight Mommy is screening in the Vanguard programme at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
Directors: Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz
Starring: Susanne Wuest, Elias Schwarz and Lukas Schwarz
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