‘Goodnight Mommy’ (2022) Review: A Less Threatening Modern Remake

Naomi Watts has made a name in the genre with movies like The Ring, but she has never been much of a scream queen. In Matt Sobel’s remake of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s Goodnight Mommy, she returns to the horror screen with a surgical mask for reasons that aren’t clear. Remakes are hard to accomplish, especially movies that were made originally internationally. For those familiar with the 2014 Austrian movie, it is another reminder that English-language remakes are not more memorable than their originals.

Twin brothers, Elias and Lucas (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti, respectively), are dropped off at their mother’s country home by their father (Peter Hermann), who is afraid to face his ex-wife due to some unknown reason. When Elias and Lucas see their mother after an extended period, they find her alone in her dark room with a surgical bandage over her face. She claims that she has done a medical procedure on her face and it needs some time to heal before she tasks her bandages off. The twins suspect that their mother is a bit different. Mommy has rules, no visitors, no play dates, no loud noises, and entering her bedroom and office. Elias and Lucas begin to suspect if their mother is their mother when she refuses to sing their bedtime song, “You’re My Sunshine.” Things get even weirder when their mother rips a drawing they made for her. Lucas and Elias can’t help but wonder if the woman behind the bandages is their mother.

Goodnight Mommy combines psychological thriller and mystery that steeps into the elements of paranoia. Sobel lets the children’s imagination run to the extreme when they realise that the person that gave birth to them might not be the person behind the mask. Some signs support their suspicions, and they take extra measures to see if their mother is an imposter. The movie begins with a video clip of Watts before the surgery, where her doting nature sings their favourite song before bedtime. But when the twins visit their mother after an extended period, they suddenly realise she is not the same person anymore. Her refusal to be doting and care for her children lets their suspicion grow bigger.

Since Watts’ performance only relies on her bodily movements because her face is wrapped in bandages, she does an excellent job. Her performance is intimidating and it entirely relies on her movements to portray the character’s frustrations and anger towards the situation. It’s a slightly disturbing feeling knowing that the person behind the bandages might not be the twins’ mother and yet, Watts plays the role with ambiguity and strangeness that only someone like her can perfect.

Goodnight Mommy certainly has more misses than the original movie. There are some scary moments, but the overall tension of the original movie isn’t present in the remake. It hits all the same narrative beats with a few slight changes to the remake. However, the horror elements are less threatening. Even the mother’s bandage is less scary. Goodnight Mommy provides an excellent performance from Watts, but that’s the only thing that can hold a three-star rating for the English-language remake.

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