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.
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.
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.
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.