This image is from the official trailer for “Goodnight Mommy,” distributed by Amazon Prime Video.

I admit: While watching the trailer for “Goodnight Mommy,” I was scared. The marketing for Matt Sobel’s (“Take Me to the River”) film showed an eerie-looking woman with bandages masking the majority of her face. I was scared for her twin boys (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti, “Witch Hunt”) who had to live with a mother completely foreign to them. Her off-putting nature was frightening, and I prepared myself for a jump-scare thriller. I was wrong; this film was purely psychological horror. By the end of the movie, my internal biases vanished, and I was left fooled. The beginning of the movie was slightly slow; I was waiting for a resolve of tension. But as it progressed, my confusion only grew. The end revealed the true plot and completely changed my perspective on the events that occurred. While I was expecting something bone-chilling, I have to give props to a plot twist that no one saw coming. 

A remake of the 2014 Austrian film of the same name, “Goodnight Mommy” is set in a remote home in the countryside (a trend I’ve recently been seeing in horror films) where twins Elias and Lukas are sent to visit their mother (Naomi Watts, “Infinite Storm”), who just underwent a surgical procedure resulting in her face being wrapped creepily in bandages, which make the boys wary. The movie is mostly filmed from the perspective of the twins (primarily Elias) as they try to determine whether their mother is an impostor. But as the movie progresses, the plot deviates significantly and reveals a shocking twist that completely flipped my perspective. By the end of the movie, I was questioning everything I had thought up until that point, realizing it was much more sinister than I expected. 

This ending definitely helped the movie. At times, I felt a slight lull in the film; the buildup for something to happen wasn’t very exciting, and I grew impatient. Some scenes were unnecessary, like when one of the twins watched his mother get undressed. It felt uncomfortable to watch, and I still cannot figure out its significance to the plot. However, the ending twist helped clarify some of the dull plot points. I began to understand the intent of certain parts that helped set up the ending and how everything tied together nicely. I found myself reflecting back on the movie and thinking, this makes sense now. It didn’t entirely save the movie, but my change in perspective made me more appreciative of the earlier scenes. Relative to these scenes, the ending felt rushed. An eerie buildup can make a plot twist more shocking, but focusing more on the dark ending would have made the movie more interesting. It was a quick revelation of events that would’ve been much more fascinating if the events leading up to it were explored. 

Interestingly enough, filming the movie from Elias’s perspective messed with my mind. I fully believed, along with Elias, that his mother was an evil impostor, even though some of the clues had logical explanations. When confronted with her eye color change, Mother explained that she wore colored contacts in her pictures. But even so, I wasn’t convinced. I never thought my opinions were as distorted as they ended up being. The film immersed the viewers in a blur between reality and fantasy, diving deep into Elias’s mind and projecting his internal struggles into the environment in a way that was curated to seem normal to the viewers. That internal battle was displayed skillfully and left my mind spinning. 

Compared to the original, the remake’s reception has been far worse. Critics comment that it left out key, disturbing details that make the original more terrifying. Actions implied to be accidents in the remake are cold and calculated in the original Austrian film. Mother has a less threatening appearance in the remake: She is welcoming and warm, which deters from the thriller effect. The 2014 version includes more graphic displays of torture, revealing just how frightening people can be. The overall terror effect was not as prevalent in the remake, which would have elevated the plot significantly. While it delivers a shockingly powerful performance, “Goodnight Mommy” fell short of its horror title. 

Daily Arts Writer Zara Manna can be reached at zaraam@umich.edu.