In 2014, Austrian film Goodnight Mommy took the horror world by storm and filled the genre with utter dread and frightening chills. As is the case with a lot of successful foreign language movies, American studios often decide to produce an English-language version to capitalize on the success of its inspiration and to reach wider audiences. What usually occurs is that the American/English-language remake pales in comparison to what is accomplished with the original film. Going into this movie, I tried to have an open mind and hoped that the new version would come to close to the level of horror achieved with Veronica Franz’s and Fiala’s powerful offering. However, as expected, Matt Sobel’s take is a very different type of film that delivers heartbreak, but without the same degree of foreboding with which Austrian’s darling perturbed audiences.

Much like the original film, the new, and not-so-improved Goodnight Mommy mostly takes place on the property where twin brothers Elias and Lucas (Nicolas and Cameron Crovetti) reside with their divorced mother (Naomi Watts). After the mother has been away for some undisclosed form of what seems to be cosmetic surgery, the twins return home to reunite with their beloved mommy. However, something definitely seems off when “Mommy” doesn’t quite seem herself. Yes, it is true that seeing their mother’s head and face covered with bandages is already unnerving, but the boys begin noticing that her personality is drastically different. As they continue to spend more time with her and experience either levels of indifference or even abusive behavior, Elias and Lukas come to the conclusion that this lady is not at all their real mother.

Based on the original movie written by Franz and Fiala, screenwriter Kyle Warren and director Matt Sobel adapt Goodnight Mommy that comes across more like a psychological drama, rather than a psychological horror movie. And while the experience does have a genuine gravity and air of suspense and dread, Warren and Sobel never quite shock and disturb their audiences in ways that Franz and Fiala do. The result is a very watered-down take on the story which is utterly disappointing.

And while the direction is solid and the performances of the Watts and the Crovetti brothers are great, I expected so much more from this movie, as I usually do with remakes. I prefer that new takes on movies attempt something more dynamic and powerful than what has been done previously. Otherwise, what is exactly the point. That is not to say that this new version of Goodnight Mommy is a bad movie, but in comparision to the original, this take plays its hand way too safely.

It is my recommendation that, if this movie’s premise seems intriguing, one should seek out the original Austrian movie. For those who are too fearful of very disturbing horror, then perhaps this movie is the way to go. Matt Sobel’s Goodnight Mommy is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Leave a comment