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I had a lot of trouble locating a copy of Goodnight Mommy (2014), or Ich Seh, Ich Seh. The film came out in Austria last year, however the American release is scheduled for September 11, 2015 (um…. really?), so I needed to find an Austrian copy with English subtitles. As a frequent flyer at Kick Ass Torrents, I didn’t know Pirate Bay had changed their URL. It wasn’t on KAT, I couldn’t get Pirate Bay to load, so I spent a lot of time dicking around online looking for it and failing. I did find one file, but the subtitles were in some Eastern European language and I slapped my hands on the desk in frustration. After whining about this on Twitter, @SubtleManias linked me to the Pirate Bay file that I had completely missed.

So, was this search worth it? A lot of Americans are claiming this is the scariest movie ever made, somehow just from seeing the trailer.

Well…

As to be expected from most hype, this is all false. The movie was not even remotely close to being the scariest movie EVAR, and I wonder if it can even be considered scary at all. Disturbing? Yes. Most definitely disturbing. But not necessarily scary. Good? Well, I’m not so sure even that. I can’t say it was bad.

The movie, directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, takes place in an empty, quiet rural town in Austria. In the beginning, we see two creepy identical twins wandering the scenic countryside, fading into the darkness of tunnels and milling about. When they get home, we find out that their horrifying and skeletal mother has received some sort of face-plant surgery, her face wrapped in bandages, and we receive some information that a divorce and accident occurred recently. Whatever the accident was, it led to the mom’s surgery. 

Do I look creepy enough for you?

The mom is immediately a steely bitch, and the twins begin to assert that she is acting differently and therefore is probably not their mother. So where is their real mother? This is a question they ask repeatedly throughout the film. The viewers are left wondering for the majority of the movie, Is that their real mother? There is evidence that falls on both sides of the issue, so it’s difficult to be absolutely certain either way, though I developed my theories early on and I ended up being right. So the ending was predictable, and I think most people who view this movie will figure out what is actually happening within the first 20 minutes.

The tropes and devices are just so obvious. The alternative explanations are just sitting there behind every action, and the viewer can infer easily what is going on, though to the film’s credit there is enough doubt maintained that there is some uncertainty until you find out that, hey, actually, you were right and it wasn’t as complex as you thought it might turn out to be. I can appreciate that the movie was able to nurse that sense of doubt, but I can’t say that’s enough to make the outcome satisfying.

Everything about the movie is creepy and confusing. As predictable as the ending is, it’s disconnect with certain scenes throughout the movie allow the confusion to continue after the film. I had SO many questions when the credits began to roll that I couldn’t possibly be happy. There are scenes in this movie that are so random, so bizarre, that it seems they are just in the movie to make the viewer squirm and go, What the fuck!? But if those scenes aren’t relevant to the overall plot, then is that good film-making? I have to say no.

To be fair, there are also some things I misunderstood due to cultural differences. I had a fit wondering about a random scene where the twin boys climb up some human bones and skulls, only to inquire online and find out that in places like Austria there are old communal tombs where the remains of peasants are placed. Oh. Ohhhhh. Okay. Still don’t get why there’s a scene where the boys are climbing in one of those tombs, but okay.

You might be safer just not having kids.

The look and setting of this movie are amazing though. The house is so cold and strange, the furniture and placement of things within it so intense. The mother was a television personality and model of some sort, and there are creepy, blurry photos of her throughout the house that no one would ever put up on a wall. There are dolls sitting around the stones of their fireplace. All of the external walls seem to be blinds, so with a flick the walls can all be windows. The mother herself looks perfectly creepy, and those kids are creepy as hell as well.

The creepiness does beat you over the head, though. Halfway through the film, I was going, “I get it! Everything is creepy! Creepiness! Creepy mom and kids! Will something just happen?!”

Stuff does happen, though it’s not until there are ten minutes left in the movie. The ending is extreme, and the brief violence is enough to make someone cover their face or turn away from the screen. The bloodiness is effective. The person I was watching the movie with stood up and walked to the other side of the room during one scene, but came back to really have nothing else too extreme happen.

Although I see this film being advertised and discussed as truly horrifying, I don’t think this film is going to go over well with an American audience. It’s far too slow, too little happens. It’s simply too strange. I would say that if you are a fan of horror movies, you should watch it, because it’s atmospherically interesting, but it’s not even the best of its kind. I would much rather watch Funny Games, or Hard Candy, or The Strangers.

I do kind of want to watch it again one day, however. So there is that.

If you do watch it, make sure you pay close attention to the ending. There is a detail in there that can be missed that is pretty important.

I have heard through the grapevine (that grapevine being DreadIt) that when it comes to Asian horror flicks, the 2004 original Thai version of Shutter is incredibly scary. I am always eager and willing to watch Eastern horror for the reason that they often don’t focus so much on the slash and kill aspect, but rely heavily on disturbing imagery and psychological dread (excluding, of course, those fantastic Korean revenge films which are amazing in entirely different ways). The deaths are often more creative and strange, and I want strange when I watch a horror movie. Strangeness in itself can be pretty horrifying, when done right.

A new Instagram feature: Auto Ghost!

Unfortunately for me, I saw the 2008 American version of Shutter in theaters. While The Ring is arguably of equivalent quality to Ringu, and The Grudge is almost as good as Ju-On, the American version of Shutter (same name) stars Joshua Jackson of Dawson’s Creek fame and it is just absolute garbage. The plot is the same however, which means that going into the good version I already knew exactly what was going to happen. The end reveal is much better executed in the Thai film, so I feel as if I lost some of the unnerving jolt of it by already expecting it. The image was already in my head, so seeing the image lost some of its impact.

The film is very along the same lines as Ringu and Ju-On, meaning pale girl with long black hair creeping around and ruining everyone’s day, but despite focusing on this same trope, the scares do work. There are two particular images that are extremely unsettling. The first is a jump scare, an unexpected movement in a photograph, that is startling because it has you focusing closely on a small segment of the photo before the movement occurs. The second comes from a series of photographs, much later in the film, and the movement involved in this one has quite a creepy look that is just fun to watch.

The scares and imagery, then: fabulous.

The plot, however, has some strange holes.

The one thing that left me confused and distracted for a large portion of the movie involves the car accident that occurs at the beginning of the movie. The lead male Tun and his girlfriend Jane are drunk driving and hit a woman, and when weird things start happening, Jane believes they are being haunted by the woman they accidentally murdered. Things are not this simple, however, because there is another woman who committed suicide, and that whole story is the majority of the movie’s focus. So, what’s with the hit and run earlier? The second woman had already committed suicide by the time of the accident, so did they hit this woman’s ghost? I believe this event may have sparked Jane’s discovery of the Big Horrible Scene that occurs later in the film, but that’s my one theory. If anyone else has any other ideas about these seemingly two separate deaths, then I would love to hear them.

Shutter is a good horror movie and it makes you jump. Those into more hardcore horror may be unimpressed, but a fan of ghosts and the supernatural will surely find themselves scared.

To be safe, as a general rule of thumb, I suggest watching the original before the American version, when it comes to any movie. Even if the remake turns out to be good, at least you’ll go into the original blind just in case it’s not.

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