Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
An Unnecessary Mutilated Face-Lift
- Please read at your own risk at this review contains spoilers for both the 2014 version of Goodnight Mommy and the 2022 remake.
Directed by Matt Sobel (Brand New Cherry Flavor) with a screenplay by Kyle Warren (the Lethal Weapon television series), Goodnight Mommy is a remake of the 2014 Austrian psychological horror film written and directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (The Lodge). Twin boys Lucas and Elias (Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti) arrive at their mother’s house in the country only to believe that their mother (played by Naomi Watts) is not actually their mother.
The 2014 film capitalizes on the nuanced behavior between the twins. They generally don't speak much as Lukas (spelled differently in the Austrian film) is constantly whispering in Elias’ ear whenever their mother is around. You witness them play together, discover things together, and fight with one another. They are close and inseparable, but they also keep to themselves.
In the remake, Lucas and Elias are squeaky, loud-mouthed turds that never stop talking. They’re overly needy and never seem to know when to shut up. They come off as whiny and helpless with the final act of the film seeming like even more of a stretch than in the original.
Goodnight Mommy (2022) changes so much in comparison to the original film. The twins’ dad is alive and is now separated from their mother. He is seen in the opening sequence of the film and never seen again. There’s no cat, pet hissing cockroaches, no magnifying glass, or homemade masks. Originally, the mother, with her face still bandaged, dances naked in front of the mirror to no music. It isn’t as sexual as it is disturbing while showcasing how far the mother has psychologically deteriorated. The new film has Naomi Watts dancing around in her underwear while an old record plays before ripping up Elias’ drawing as he secretly watches.
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The original film toyed with the ambiguousness over whether the mother was who she said she was and what the ending actually meant. You have the strong impression that it is their mom the whole time while all three of them seemingly died in the closing moments only to be reunited in the afterlife, but there are little instances that imply otherwise (the mom’s friend that looked just like her, the video they find, the mole on her face, etc).
The 2022 film leaves the colored eye contact concept in the film along with the twins overhearing a phone call that implies the mother is, “Sick of pretending,” but otherwise seemingly glosses over the other red flags. The mother is still abusive and the runtime of the remake is only ten minutes shorter than the 2014 film, but somehow this new take of Goodnight Mommy feels rushed and less meaningful. The concept of Lucas’ favorite song is stretched to blatant overkill. In the 2014 film, one of the red flags was that the mother didn’t know the song. That element is almost entirely removed in the 2022 remake, but, “You are My Sunshine” is sung over and over again (at least three times) during the first half hour of the film.
A Superficial Skin Shedding
This remake introduces a barn with a bloody piece of wood that has a hole in it. The mother also has a laundry list of rules that mostly don’t mean anything apart from, “Don’t go in the barn.” No cockroaches and no mom strolling naked in the woods means the nightmare sequences are a different beast in tone. The best sequence in the new film is a nightmare where the mother abhorrently peels a hangnail from her toe, which results in her ripping the skin from her entire body. The follow up is another nightmare where her black, grotesque, and inhuman (but still robed) body smashes and crawls through a broken window towards a helpless Elias.
What made the original film so intriguing is the slow, but steady buildup of tension and uncomfortable behavior leading up to an incredibly unsettling finale. The complete absence of pivotal interaction between the twins, animals and insects being removed entirely, and the torture element being toned down completely changes whatever sort of ambiance the remake was attempting to go for. The twins’ reaction to their mother’s unusual behavior seems forced even after Elias gets slapped in the face and thrown into a cold shower. The remake’s ending has a lone survivor diving headfirst into full-on insanity, but there’s no artistry in its execution. The remake is straightforward with its storytelling while the 2014 film is a cornfield labyrinth of mystery.
Kyle Warren and Matt Sobel slap a new face filled with unintended blemishes and superficial beauty marks that weren’t present in the original film. The atmospheric dread present in the 2014 film is lost in translation. Naomi Watts looks like she’s having a blast hiding behind a disposable ski mask and acting like Jack Torrance from The Shining while ripping the doorknob off of a locked door with a crowbar.
Goodnight Mommy (2022) has the skeletal structure of a brain twisting and psychologically scarring horror film. However, it’s been cosmetically redesigned into something so misshapen, hideous, and unrecognizable that it’s a shell of its former shelf. If the original Goodnight Mommy is Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, then the remake is the herb facial masque that he peels from his face and throws in the trash; it helps the original remain timeless but is otherwise disposable.
© 2022 Chris Sawin