Is this reimagining of a horror classic a worthy follow-up to the film that first terrified audiences?
Remakes of classic movies, especially in the horror category, almost never match the quality of the originals. For proof of that, you don’t have to go further than the underperforming versions of Psycho, The Fog, and Flatliners that have been released in recent years.
There are undoubtedly some notable exceptions. Let Me In, which was directed by Matt Reeves and was a remake of Tomas Alfredson’s vampire tale Let The Right One In, was actually a pretty decent movie. The filmmaker managed to keep the tight and emotional atmosphere of the chilling 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 debatable whether this version is any more frightening (and generally better) than Don Siegel’s original communist allegory, published in 1956.
Why am I talking about new versions of old movies? Goodnight Mommy is a remake of the 2014 Austrian film of the same name. In case you aren’t aware, Matt Sobel’s Goodnight Mommy, which is currently streaming on Prime Video in some regions, is a remake of the film.
Both films have a similar plot revolving around two brothers named Elias and Lukas who pay a visit to their mother, an actress, only to find out that she isn’t the same person as she used to be. They are shocked to learn that she has changed. One of the differences they notice as soon as they arrive is the surgical mask wrapped around their face; However, the guys have more to worry about than just their looks. Her mother used to be a kind and caring person, but now she is cold and distant, and her behavior is increasingly approaching that of abusive.
These personality changes lead the boys to suspect that the woman behind the mask is actually an impostor. The answer to that question lies at the heart of the film’s core mystery, found in both the remake and the original film. Do the twins still live at home with their mother? Or do they live entirely in a house shared with another person?
If you’ve seen the original film, you’ll already know the reaction. As I said earlier, the plot of this 2022 remake is very close to the original. Nevertheless, the two films are not entirely comparable, since Sobel’s film differs from them in essential points.
Does this mean it’s a bad version of the original? The answer to this question depends on who you ask. It’s certainly not as bad as the films I mentioned at the beginning of this review, as this film benefits from creative direction and compelling performances from its talented cast, with special mentions to Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti, who play the twins. It certainly isn’t as bad as the films I mentioned at the beginning of this review, as this film benefits from creative direction and compelling performances. It’s not as shocking as the original Alfredson created, however, and if you’re familiar with his film you might find the adjustments made by Sobel disappointing.
In the 2014 version, the mother is a much more dangerous character than the one portrayed by Naomi Watts in the remake. She is mean, evasive, and almost robotic in behavior, and she never reveals to the boys whether or not she is in fact their biological mother. Elias has some concerns about the mother portrayed by Watts, but she vehemently denies these allegations, claiming that she is in fact the boys’ mother. She continues to behave oddly, but she’s not quite as mysterious as the woman in Alfredson’s film.
To unravel the mystery surrounding the masked woman, the boys in both films gather evidence to support their claims. When they realize they’re sharing their apartment with a total stranger, they take their anger out on her. In the first version of the film, there are several sequences in which the twins commit acts of violence against the woman, including some that are really repulsive. In the rewrite of the story, Watts’ mother has it a lot easier as her sons don’t torment her like they used to, save for a bucket of ice water.
Your level of comfort with frightening content will determine whether you see these changes as a positive or negative development. If disturbing scenes of violence bother you, particularly those involving children, you might be relieved to learn that the remake is significantly less intense than the original film, directed by Alfredson. On the other hand, if you were hoping for something as chillingly dark as the original film, you might be less than thrilled about the remake, as the violence gave this film its visceral punch.
The film also differs from Sobel in other respects. It’s nowhere near as suspenseful as the 2014 film, and the aura of mystery is dulled because there are one or more clues that point directly to the unexpected ending. Directed by Alfredson, the film was notable for its opaqueness, and we weren’t 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 widespread and an argument that can be made against this particular remake. You won’t get quite the same experience watching this movie as you did watching the title that came before it. That doesn’t mean the film is worthless; However, since it’s not as disturbing or intelligent as the film before it, you won’t get quite the same experience.
If you haven’t seen the 2014 version of Goodnight Mommy, you have no comparison to the remake, which can be seen as a positive aspect of the situation. You won’t have a valid excuse to complain about the mood swing or the watered down scenes that unfold between the boys and their mother, and you should have a good time with the myriad twists and turns woven into the story.
Getting back to the question we started with: is this a bad remake of an old horror movie? There’s a lot of creative skill on display, both in front of and behind the camera, so I don’t think that’s the case. If you’ve seen Alfredson’s film, you might have a valid reason to complain about it, but I suspect your main objections have more to do with the way the story is retold than with the film’s aesthetics even.
If you haven’t seen Alfredson’s film for reference, perhaps you can tolerate the Sobel-directed one. If you have a problem with subtitled movies or extreme horror scenes, you’ll be relieved to know that this version isn’t nearly as bad as some of the other remakes you might 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 the fate of the mother
Trauma is another possible explanation for Elias’ mother’s strange behavior. As she struggles to come to terms with the death of her son, she cannot bear to ever look at Elias the same way again. All her pleasant memories, like singing bedtime songs, have been spoiled by this recent event. As a direct result of her sadness, she has evolved into a completely different person and thus has the distinct impression that she is an impostor.
It is likely that Elias’ mother forbade him to play in the barn because her father’s gun was found there. She would never have slapped Elias in the face before Luke’s death. Despite this, Elias continues to demonstrate his unwillingness to accept the truth. Elias throws his mother over a pillar in their barn after his mother shows him evidence of her infidelity. Elias escapes into the darkness after the barn is set on fire by the others.
The cycle continues
After escaping the rubble of the barn, Elias finds himself in an open field, where he collapses and begins to cry. He is patted on the back and patted on the shoulder as he watches the fire spread. His brother Lukas is also present and they both hug him. He is reassured by his mother that he has not done anything inappropriate. On the other hand, it is unmistakably clear that this is in fact another deception. Because he had trouble coming to terms with Luke’s death, he began to doubt who his mother was, and now he can’t face the fact that he was responsible for her death as well. He began to doubt his mother because he couldn’t handle Luke’s death. Elias is able to keep his hallucination alive because he has no one to guide him.